My Top 6 Business Books to Read for Entrepreneurs

By: Chad Bell
Business school taught me the fundamentals of business which I use in my everyday management of Zen Den Web Design. However, my MBA did not prepare me for the challenges I would eventually face as an entrepreneur. I filled that huge gap with books that have not only taught me valuable lessons, but also inspired me and continue to inspire me when things get rough and I want to throw in the towel.

Being an entrepreneur is the hardest, most grueling, challenging, tiring, rewarding, exciting, and stimulating experience I’ve ever enjoyed and hated all at the same time. So, if you find yourself on this same roller coaster or are contemplating getting on this ride here are my personal top 6 business books to read for entrepreneurs. I’m sure this list will grow and evolve over time. Next on my to read list is Made to Stick, which has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting to be read.

Confessions of a Serial Entrpreneur1. Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur – This is one of the first biz books I read. I felt a certain connection to Stuart because at the time I had two friends who worked at Elephant Pharmacy in Berkeley, CA and I visited the store frequently. They both loved working at Elephant and my friend who worked in the corporate office would often tell me random stories about her interactions with Stuart and the respect she had for him. I remember thinking to myself,  “I want to run a company in a manner that my employees hold me in such esteem.”

2. The Monk and the Riddle – This book was recommended to me by a successful entrepreneur. At the time I had The-Monk-and-the-Riddle-Randy-Komisarrecently quit a very good job in order to pursue my entrepreneurial calling. I was consumed with self doubt and often thought I had made a terrible mistake. The following quote from the book provided the inspiration to continue on the path I was on in spite of my doubts.

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

The journey I was setting out on was risky, but not as risky as not taking the journey at all.

The Art of War3. The Art of War – I read this book just before I hired my first employee. It helped shape the attitudes I have towards the people who work not for me, but rather with me. This was reinforced when a contractor who was working with me at the time commented on the fact that I always paid on time. I still always pay everyone else before I pay myself knowing that I can not head into battle with troops that are hungry or worse, disgruntled.

4. Reality Check – I had a professor that frequently dropped Guy’s name in our class discussions so I went out and bought this book. I still incorporate lessons from his pages titled ‘The Art of Bootstrapping.’Guy-Kawasaki-Reality-Check

5. The 4-Hour Work Week – I’m not the only skeptic who approached this book under the assumption that it was a get rich quick kind of read. However, by the time I was half way through the book every other page was dog eared. One of my favorite chapters is ‘The End of Time Management.’ I used to be a 4-Hour-Work-Week-Timothy-Ferrissbig multi-tasker, but Timothy impressed on me just how inefficient and unproductive this habit is. Now I always start my day with a task list and tackle one task at a time rather than 12 tasks at a time. I get a lot more done in a day. Although I’m still seduced by the illusion that if I do more I’ll get more done I start and stop tasks throughout the day much less.

6. Pour Your Heart Into It – I’m sure there are plenty of Starbuck’s haters out there, but no one can deny the success of the company. I have a friend who worked there when he was in graduate school. He took the job because he needed health insurance and could work part-time to receive benefits. He actually liked working there. At the time I was perplexed that a company could create an atmosphere where people felt valued and also liked to work. Now after reading Pour-Your-Heart.Into-It-Howard-SchultzHoward’s book I have a better understanding of how some companies do so.

By this time next year I’ll probably have a top 10 or 15 business books which have influenced me. I actually have left off at least 5 others books so perhaps in the near future I’ll at least get a top 10 list. One thing is certain, I draw on the experience contained in these books not some days, but rather everyday because if I’m not working I’m at the very least thinking about how to be a better entrepreneur almost every waking moment.


Simplified Web Design and Increased Conversion Rates for eCommerce

Some Simple Design Recommendation for eCommerce Websites

Regardless of your website’s overall purpose or message, everyone has the same end goal… Conversion. When it comes to websites, conversion means turning clicks into customers. Whether that means sales, memberships, or calls, the higher your conversion rate, the more successful your eCommerce website becomes.

Too Many Choices

If you currently have an active website, take a moment to count the number of choices on your home page. Is it clear where you want your audience to go? The last thing you want to do is paralyze your audience with too many choices. Countless studies have shown that too many choices leads to no choice at all. The rule of three states, things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. Retailers apply this concept to move their most profitable products faster. For example, if you are selling memberships limit the choice to three, Not enough features, Too expensive, and Just right. Remember to ensure that you have tailored your Just right option to be your most profitable.

Clear Calls to Action eCommerce

Clear Calls to Action

A call to action is what drives your conversion. Buy Now, Sign up, Book Now, are all clear, urgent messages that guide your audience to convert.
You want this message to be not only as visible as possible, but urgent as well. You should never assume that your visitor will come back, so converting that visit is essential. Just like any other sale, once a customer leaves the chances of them coming back decreases by the minute.

Maximizing Conversion

Again, a clear-guided message on your home page is essential, but all of your other pages need to have the same impact and urgency as well. You cannot assume that your visitors will return to your home page. From a design standpoint, your call to action should be one of the biggest, brightest, easiest elements to find on the page. Another tactic would be to put an expiration date on offers to create urgency. For example, Apply by March 1st and get 10% off, this naturally creates a sense of loss if the user is interested in your product or service to begin with.

Goal Conversion eCommerce


Project Management and Client Expectations

A major challenge in our industry is project management and client expectations. We’ve all experienced the project that went south resulting in major stress and a frustrated or angry client. However, most of these problems can be resolved before hand if you set reasonable expectations up front. Easier said than done in my experience. So, here is what I’ve learned from many sleepless nights.


Ask clients before a project what they expect from you. If they are expecting something that can’t be delivered it’s best to work this out before hand. For example, perhaps a client wants an immediate response to his/her emails. This is unrealistic because it disrupts the workflow in your office and consumes resources especially if you have an email happy client. Have language in your contract or project proposal that states response times, for example, all non-urgent emails and phone calls will be responded to within 24 hours. Don’t forget to define urgent because in the mind of a client everything is urgent.

On the other hand it is necessary to communicate your expectations of your client. We often need a decision or clarification from a client in order to proceed with their project. We send an email and after a day or two we get no response or the “We’ll get back to you shortly on this.”  Then what happens? The client responds on a Friday evening and expects us to continue as if no time was lost, same deadline, same deliverables. In order to protect yourself from such a scenario be sure to have language in your proposal to mitigate this issue.

Project Scope

Scope creep is a reality of any project-based business. Despite your best efforts to define the specs and requirement of a project additional requests start to come in from the client. As soon as you agree to accommodate any additional specs you’ve opened the floodgates. Now your client expects that all requests will be met with the same response and you are now a yes man or woman. It is much easier to put your client on a short leash at the beginning than try to shorten the leash at a later point in the project.

First, it’s important to define all the specs and moving parts of a project with as much clarity as possible and to include these details in a project proposal document. We explicitly state that any additional work to the project scope is billable at an hourly rate. Clearly defining boundaries at this early stage will help limit potential scope creep.

So, you don’t have to say no to your client. Instead explain how the changes will affect the existing project. Then if they still want to proceed explain how the change will require documentation, adjustment to delivery date, and most importantly additional billing. It’s interesting how changes become less important to a client when they have to pay for these changes.

Although it is impossible to anticipate all challenges that will or could arise with your clients; you can ask yourself where the most stress is emanating from. From this point you can begin to set clearer expectations for yourself, employees, and/or clients.


The Value of Site Map in Information Architecture

The Value of the Site Map Diagram in Web Design

So you are doing your due diligence of investigating the top creative web design agencies in the area to build the best website money can buy. There are likely to be a plethora of players and qualifications on your checklist, making this a challenging and often tangent-filled task. Along the way, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important player – your target audience.

Oftentimes, the first step to building a website involves defining and analyzing website goals and objectives and competitive environment of your business. But, arguably, the most important step of the conception phase is to map out the user-navigation and flow of your website. This is where the often under-valued site map comes in. This element of the website is often called the information architecture (IA).

The main purpose of a site map diagram is to understand the structural organization of, and parent-child relationships between, various pages of the website. Not to be confused with a text-based site map (often displayed as a link in the footer for search engine optimization SEO), site map diagrams are best designed in the form of a flowchart. Flowchart content can vary greatly from site to site. But commonly site map diagrams follow one of the two layouts described below:

1. Process-Oriented

Depicts the customer conversion process
This diagram outlines how a user will be taken through your website and lead to the point of conversion. If an objective of your website is to generate leads, the process should be planned thoroughly and mapped out in a flow chart or outline. Perhaps your website has more than one conversion point i.e download white papers, capture an email address and/or fill out a form that feeds into your sales cycle. What does the path look like towards these conversions? The site map answers this question. In addition, it is important to nail this down before the development of the website begins. It is always advantageous to measure twice and cut once. This simple yet often overlooked step in the web design process can prevent head aches in the design process and ultimately save time and money.

2. Organization-Oriented

Highlight the product/service features
This example focuses on the multiple levels (categories, subcategories, products, product options) of your offerings.
Site maps should be designed to enhance the ease of user navigation based on the goals and objectives of your website. A great tool for this is, which offers free accounts to create, store, and export diagrams online. It is always beneficial to look towards industry leaders to gain inspiration on the best practices for organizing the information architecture of your website.