Rework by Jason Fried

You don’t have to work miserable 60 / 80 / 100 – hour weeks to make it work. You don’t even need an office.

Ignore the real world. It’s a place where new ideas , unfamiliar approaches , and foreign concepts always lose .

Learn from your successes. Failure is not a prerequisite for success.

Long-term business planning is a fantasy. You have to be able to improvise. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t think about the future or contemplate how you might attack upcoming obstacles. That’s a worthwhile exercise. Just don’t feel you need to write it down or obsess about it. Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier.

Why grow? Why is expansion always the goal? You’ll need a better answer than “economies of scale.” Grow slow and see what feels right. Premature hiring is the death of many companies. Once you get big, it’s really hard to shrink without firing people, damaging morale. Runs a business that’s sustainable and profitable.

Workaholism is stupid. Working like crazy just isn’t sustainable. Workaholics try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force. Workaholics create guilt and poor morale among their coworkers. You end up just plain tired. No one makes sharp decisions when tired. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.

Instead of entrepreneurs, let’s just call them starters.

To do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference. This doesn’t mean you need to find the cure for cancer.

Scratch your own itch.

Start by making something, now. What you start is what matters, not what you think or say or plan to start. Ideas are cheap and plentiful.

The most common excuse people give: “There’s not enough time.” There’s always enough time if you spend it right.

Keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. A strong stand is how you attract superfans, not just customers. Also, when you stand for something, decisions are obvious. Ex: Whole Foods.

Be authentic with your mission statement. Having an authentic mission statement means truly standing for something.

Outside money is Plan Z. When you take outside money, you give up control. The pursuit of “cashing out” begins to trump building a quality business. Spending other people’s money is addictive. Customers move down the totem pole. Raising money is incredibly distracting. You start having meetings with your investors and / or board of directors.

You need less than you think. There’s nothing wrong with being frugal. Great companies start in garages all the time.

Start an actual business not a startup. Actual businesses worry about profit from day one.

You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy. You’ll be able to focus on getting customers to love you, instead of getting acquired.

Be the smallest, the leanest, and the fastest. Avoid: excess staff, meetings, thick process.

Constraints are actually advantages in disguise. Southwest — unlike most other airlines, which fly multiple aircraft models, flies only Boeing 737s. Because of this, Southwest has lower costs and a business that’s easier to run.

You just can’t do everything you want to do and do it well. Sacrifice some of your darlings for the greater good. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good .

There’s the stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. Find out what’s essential and focus all your energy on making it the best it can be.

Ignore the details early on. Nail the basics first and worry about the specifics later. We sketch out ideas with a big, thick Sharpie marker, instead of a ballpoint pen.

Long projects zap morale.

Be a curator. Constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline.

Gordon Ramsay’s first step is nearly always to trim the menu. When things aren’t working, cut back.

Focus on what won’t change. The core of your business should be built around things that won’t change. Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now. Those are the things you should invest in. Eg. Amazon and Japanese automaker focus on core principles.

It’s not the gear that matters. Content is what matters.

Launch now. Once your product does what it needs to do, get it out there. When you impose a deadline, you gain clarity.

Instead of describing what something looks like, draw it. Get to something real (a prototype) right away because people need to see something to start working on it.

Sometimes abandoning what you’re working on is the right move.

Interruption is the enemy of productivity. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. Use email, over chat/meetings/call, as much as possible.

Meetings are toxic. The true cost of meetings is staggering.

If you must have a meeting, follow these simple rules: set a timer, invite as few people as possible, always have a clear agenda, meet at the site of the problem, end with a solution.

Good enough is fine. Aim for maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Problems can usually be solved with simple, mundane solutions. When good enough gets the job done, go for it.

Quick wins. Momentum fuels motivation. No one likes to be stuck on an endless project. The longer something takes, the less likely it is that you’re going to finish it. Small victories let you celebrate and release good news. Ask: “What can we do in two weeks?”

Don’t be a hero. If you already spent too much time on something that wasn’t worth it, walk away. You can’t get that time back.

Forgoing sleep is a bad idea.

We’re all terrible estimators. Estimates that stretch weeks, months, and years into the future are fantasies. The solution : Break the big thing into smaller things.

Start making smaller todo lists. Prioritize visually. Put the most important thing at the top.

Make tiny decisions by breaking up big decisions. Smaller, attainable goals like that are the best ones to have .

Don’t copy. Copying skips understanding — and understanding is how you grow. When you copy, you never lead, you always follow.

Make you part of your product or service. Zappos sets itself apart by injecting CEO Tony Hsieh’s obsession with customer service into everything it does. Polyface sells the idea that it does things a bigger agribusiness can’t do .

Being the anti – ______ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers. Having an enemy gives you a great story to tell customers, too.

Underdo your competition. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition.

It’s not worth paying much attention to the competition. Focus on competitors too much and you wind up diluting your own vision. Focus on yourself instead.

Say no by default. Use the power of no (to certain customers) to get your priorities straight. Recommend a competitor if you think there’s a better solution out there.

Let your customers outgrow you.

Don’t confuse enthusiasm with priority. The enthusiasm you have for a new idea is not an accurate indicator of its true worth.

To create a product that exceeds expectation, you might need to promise a bit less. Over-promising and under-delivering is like a one-night stand. You don’t want a one-night stand with your customers, you want a long-term relationship.

Being obscure is a great position to be in. When you’re obscure, you can try new things. No one knows you, so it’s no big deal if you mess up.

Build an audience. An audience can be your secret weapon. Every day they come back to see what we have to say. When you build an audience, you don’t have to buy people’s attention — they give it to you. Share information that’s valuable and you’ll slowly but surely build a loyal audience.

Teaching probably isn’t something your competitors are even thinking about. Etsy teaches. Gary Vaynerchuk teaches. Teach and you’ll form a bond you just don’t get from traditional marketing tactics.

Give people a backstage pass and show them how your business works. People love finding out the little secrets of all kinds of businesses.

Don’t be afraid to show your flaws. Imperfections are real and people respond to real.

Press releases are spam. Instead, call someone. Write a personal note.

Forget about the Wall Street Journal. You’re better off focusing on getting your story into a trade publication or picked up by a niche blogger.

Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24 / 7 / 365.

The myth of the overnight sensation. Dig deeper and you’ll usually find people who have busted their asses for years. It’s hard, but you have to be patient. Starbucks, Apple, Nike, Amazon, Google, and Snapple all became great brands over time, not because of a big PR push upfront. Start building your audience now.

Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first.

The right time to hire is when there’s more work than you can handle for a sustained period of time.

Pass on hiring people you don’t need, even if you think that person’s a great catch. Don’t worry about “the one that got away.”

Hire slowly. Hire a ton of people rapidly and a “strangers at a cocktail party” problem where everyone tries to avoid any conflict or drama. No one says, “This idea sucks.”

We all know resumés are a joke. The cover letter is a much better test than a resumé.

There’s surprisingly little difference between a candidate with six months of experience and one with six years. How long someone’s been doing it is overrated. What matters is how well they’ve been doing.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need someone from one of the “best” schools in order to get results.

With a small team, you need people who are going to *do* work, not *delegate* work. Avoid hiring delegators. Delegators love to pull people into meetings ,

Hire managers of one. They don’t need a lot of hand-holding or supervision. They’ve run something on their own or launched some kind of project .

Hire great writers. If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking .

It’s crazy not to hire the best people just because they live far away. To make sure your remote team stays in touch, have at least a few hours a day of real-time overlap. Meet in person once in a while .

Test out employees. You need to evaluate the work they can do now, not the work they say they did in the past. Hire them for a mini-project.

Own your bad news. When something bad happens, tell your customers.

Getting back to people quickly is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to customer service.

A good apology accepts responsibility. If you’ve built rapport with customers, they’ll cut you some slack and trust you when you say you’re sorry.

Put everyone on the front lines. Good restaurants sometimes have chefs work out front as waiters for a stretch. Listening to customers is the best way to get in tune with a product’s strengths and weaknesses. The more people you have between your customers ’ words and the people doing the work, the more likely it is that the message will get lost or distorted along the way.

After you introduce a new feature , change a policy , or remove something , knee – jerk reactions will pour in. Ride out that first rocky week. Make sure you don’t foolishly backpedal on a necessary but controversial decision. Let them know you’re listening .

You don’t create a culture. It happens .

Culture is the byproduct of consistent behavior. If you treat customers right, then treating customers right becomes your culture. So don’t worry too much about it. Don’t force it. You can’t install a culture. Like a fine scotch, you’ve got to give it time to develop.

Don’t make up problems you don’t have yet. Most of the things you worry about never happen anyway. Optimize for now and worry about the future later. The ability to change course is one of the big advantages of being small.

Skip the rock stars. The environment has a lot more to do with great work than most people realize. Rockstar environments develop out of trust, autonomy, and responsibility.

When everything constantly needs approval, you create a culture of non-thinkers. Realize that failing to trust your employees is awfully expensive .

Send people home at 5. You shouldn’t expect the job to be someone’s entire life.

Policies are organizational scar tissue. Don’t create a policy because one person did something wrong once. Policies are only meant for situations that come up over and over again.

Talk to customers the way you would to friends. Avoid jargon. Don’t talk about “monetization” or being “transparent;” talk about making money and being honest.

Write to be read, don’t write just to write. Whenever you write something, read it out loud. When you’re writing, think of the person who will read your words.

Four-letter words you should never use in business: need, must, can’t, easy, just, only, and fast. Need: very few things actually need to get done. Can’t: you probably can. Easy: people rarely say something they have to do is easy.

Stop saying ASAP: when everything is high priority, nothing is.

Data Science for Business by Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett

The Big Idea: Invest in data and data science teams. Better data + better data scientists = better models = better business decisions = sustainable competitive advantage. 

Chapter 1: Introduction, Data Analytic Thinking

  • Data mining is the extraction of knowledge from data.
  • Data science is a set of principles to guide data mining.
  • Big data means datasets that are too large for traditional data processing systems and require new technologies such as Hadoop, HBase, MongoDB.
  • We are in Big Data 1.0 still. Big Data 2.0 will be the golden era of data science.
  • Building a top-notch data science team is nontrivial but can be a tremendous strategic advantage.
  • Ex: fraud detection, Amazon, Harrah’s casinos.
  • It’s important for managers and executives to understand basic data science principles to get the most from data science projects and teams.
  • Just like chemistry is not about test tubes, data science is not about data engineering or data mining.

Chapter 2: Business Problems and Data Science Solutions

  • There are a few fundamental types of data mining tasks: classification, regression, similarity matching, clustering, association grouping, profiling, link prediction, data reduction, causal modeling.
  • This book will focus on: classification, regression, similar matching, and clustering
  • Ex: churn prediction is a classification problem.
  • Supervised vs unsupervised. Supervised data mining has a specific target. Unsupervised data mining is used to learn and observe patterns in the data but doesn’t have a specific target.
  • It’s important to appropriately evaluate prediction models.
  • Your model is not what the data scientists design, it’s what the engineers build.
  • Data science engineers are software engineers who have expertise in production systems and in data science.
  • Data mining is closer to R&D than to software engineering.
  • Invest in pilot studies and throwaway prototypes.
  • Analytics skills (ability to formulate problems well, to prototype solutions, to make reasonable assumptions) are more important than software engineering skills in a data science team.
  • Useful skills for a business analyst: statistics, SQL, data warehousing, regression analysis, machine learning.
  • There is much overlap, but there is a different because understanding the reason for churn, vs predicting which customers to target to reduce future churn.
  • Ex. Who are the most profitable customers? SQL
  • Ex. Is there really a difference between the profitable customers and the average customers? Statistics and hypothesis testing.
  • Ex. But who really are these profitable customers? Can I characterize them? SQL, statistics, automated pattern finding. Classification.
  • Ex. Will some particular new customer be profitable? How much revenue should I expect this customer to generate? Predictive model. Regression.

Chapter 3: Introduction to Predictive Modeling, From Correlation to Supervised Segmentation

  • Predictive modeling is supervised segmentation. We have some target quantity we would like to predict.
  • A classification tree, or decision tree, is a method to classify data instances.
  • Tree structured models are a very popular data modeling technique and work remarkably well.
  • Tree structured models are also easy for business users to understand.

Chapter 4: Fitting a Model to Data

  • Tuning the parameters so that the model fits the data is parameter learning or parametric modeling.
  • The most common procedure is one you’re already familiar with, linear regression.
  • Logistic regression applies linear models to class probability estimation, and is one of the most useful data mining techniques.
  • Nonlinear support vector machines and neural networks fit parameters based on complex, nonlinear functions.
  • If we increase the complexity, we can fit the data too well, then we are just memorizing the data.

Chapter 5: Overfitting and Its Avoidance

  • Just because a model fits the data very well, doesn’t mean it is better at predicting. It could just be memorizing the data.
  • If you torture the data long enough, it will confess.
  • Fundamental tradeoff between model complexity and overfitting.
  • Always hold out data to test the model.
  • A fitting graph shows the difference between accuracy during training and accuracy during testing.
  • Overfitting is bad because the model picks up spurious correlations that produce incorrect generalizations.
  • A learning curve is a plot of the generalization performance against the amount of training data.

Chapter 6: Similarity, Neighbors, and Clusters

  • Similarity between data instances is described as distance between their feature vectors.
  • Nearest-neighbor methods predict by calculating distance between a new data and neighbors in the training set.
  • Similarity is used as the basis for the most common methods of unsupervised data mining, clustering.
  • Hierarchical clustering can provide insights that instruct further data mining.
  • A cluster centroid can be used as the basis for understanding clusters.

Chapter 7: Decision Analytic Thinking I, What is a Good Model?

  • Accuracy is too simplistic a metric.
  • A confusion matrix differentiates between different types of errors (eg. sensitivity vs specificity)
  • Expected value frameworks are extremely useful in organizing data science thinking and evaluating models.

Chapter 8: Visualizing Model Performance

  • A profit curve is useful for business user to evaluate classifiers.
  • A Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) graph is useful for evaluating models when class priors or costs/benefits are not known.
  • Since ROC curves are not intuitive, a cumulative response curve (or lift curve) is most appropriate for some business users.

Chapter 9: Evidence and Probabilities

  • Bayes rule is used for conditional probabilities which occurs frequently in business problems.
  • Naive Bayes rule is valuable because it is very efficient, practical to use, and can learn on the fly.
  • Naive Bayes rule should be avoided when costs/benefits are uses. Best to use when rankings are more important.
  • Bayes rule are the basis of evidence lifts. Evidence lifts are useful for understanding data like “Facebook Likes as a predictor of High IQ”

Chapter 10: Representting and Mining Text

  • Term frequency (TFIDF) is a simple and useful data mining technique for text.
  • Topic layers can also be used to assist with understanding text.

Chapter 11: Decision Analytic Thinking II, Towards Analytical Engineering

  • Expected value framework is a core approach useful in many data science scenarios.

Chapter 12: Other Data Science Tasks and Techniques

  • Not discussed in depth in this book: co-occurrence grouping, lift and leverage, market basket analysis, profiling, link predictions, social recommendation, data reduction, latent information, bias vs variance, ensemble models, causal explanations

Chapter 13: Data Science and Business Strategy

  • Understanding data science concepts leads to awareness of new opportunities.
  • Understanding the ROI of data science results in increased investment in data and data science teams.
  • Data science is a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • A culture of data science is valuable in building a data science team.
  • A top data scientist is worth many times an average data scientist.
  • Data science is learned by working with top data scientists, either in industry or academia.
  • A top data science manager understands the technical principles, understands the business needs, and manages people and projects well.
  • There is only one reliable predictor of success of a data science research project: prior success.
  • Top data scientists want to work with other top data scientists. Most want more responsibility. Most want to be part of a fast-growing, successful company.
  • Consider funding a PhD student for $50k/year.
  • Consider taking on a data science professor or a top data science consultant as a scientific advisor to guide projects and attract data scientists.
  • An immature data science team has processes that are ad-hoc.
  • A medium-maturity data science team employs well-trained data scientists and managers.
  • A high-maturity data science team focuses on processes as well as projects.

Permaculture by Sepp Holzer

The Big Idea: Learn how nature works. Then work with nature, instead of against it, to practice sustainable agriculture.

Ch 1: Landscape Design

  • Permaculture landscape design is about restoring a partially destroyed natural landscape.
  • Keep water on your land as long as possible.
  • Terraces are an important part of my permaculture system.
  • With the exception of raised beds, there should be no straight lines, corners, or steep slopes.
  • Create microclimates where possible, to increase diversity and maximize use of land.
  • Livestock plays an important role in my permaculture system.
  • When making larger changes, seek professional help to avoid landslides and gully erosion.
  • Mechanical diggers might be used when first creating the system.
  • Burning biomass is a mistake.
  • Loosening subsoil with the excavator helps make the soil productive again.
  • Flat land, at low altitude, with lots of sun is the easiest, but permaculture systems can be developed in many unfavorable lands.
  • Understand soil conditions, water sources, aspect (directionality), and climate.
  • Raised beds are great over heavy soils that are difficult for plants to establish roots in.
  • Good healthy soil is critical for earthworms and micro-organisms that benefit plants.
  • Indicator plants will tell you what the soil conditions are like.
  • Dig deep test trenches in many places to see what the soil layers are.
  • Always experiment with new plants to see what might grow.
  • Pioneer trees can be planted to quickly protect land from erosion.
  • Lay thorny branches to protect germinating seeds from animals and to create a microclimate for growth.
  • In dry areas, you must retain as much water as possible.
  • Terraces prevent erosion, hold moisture, and increase the amount of usable land.
  • Dispersing water for roads by making the middle of the road higher.
  • Use pipes or culverts to divert streams and springs underneath roads.
  • Ditches are good for collecting water and collecting organic material.
  • Develop terraces slowly, over multiple years.
  • After excavating terraces, plant immediately and mulch to encourage fast growth.
  • Green manure or wildflowers can be planted immediately to improve suboptimal soil on a terrace.
  • Cutting grasses in summer and autumn is not necessary.
  • Plant fruit bushes and trees on embankments of terraces.
  • Humus storage ditches can be built the bottom of a slope and a terrace.
  • Raised beds are a staple of Holzer permaculture.
  • Holzer permaculture raised beds are 3-4 feet deep into the ground, 4-6 feet wide, filled with hugelkultur material, then soil to 3 feet high, with steep (45+ degree) sides.
  • Cover raised beds with mulch to prevent drying out.
  • Consider planting bushes on top of raised beds. Vegetables can still be planted under the bush. Bushes can protect vegetables from the sun drying out the soil.
  • Inside the hugelkultur, use wood chips for vegetables that require lots of nutrients. Use bulky material for vegetables that don’t require as many nutrients.
  • Try to retain as much water as possible on your land.
  • Wetlands house snakes and amphibians that help control pests.
  • Large areas of water help to stabilize temperature fluctuations.
  • A pond for fish will be different than an aquatic garden for plants, or for a pond for swimming.
  • Play close attention to topography when building a pond.
  • Rain-filled ponds are for plants. Animals require a constant flow of water.
  • An excavator is used to dig the pond and tamp the base to seal it.
  • Holzer ponds never use a pond liner.

Ch. 2: Alternative Agriculture

  • Fossil fuels have enabled large, unsustainable monoculture farms to replace sustainable, diverse farms.
  • Healthy plants require healthy soil and healthy micro-organisms.
  • Green manure crops help restore soil health.
  • Using flail mowers to cut down green manure is a common mistake.
  • Gardening problems are usually caused by an imbalance which we should fix, instead of treating the symptoms.
  • Many corrections (weeding, chemical fertilizer) that are are possible on a small scale, but not feasible or desirable on a larger scale.
  • It’s better to understand and correct the imbalance instead. Eg. mulch with cardboard, plant Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Old plant varieties generally make the best crops. Avoid hybrid seeds.
  • Store or propagate the seeds of your strongest plants growing in the worst conditions.
  • Try to grow plants in polycultures. Eg. cereals with catch crops. Eg. corn with beans or peas.
  • Breed only old, domestic breeds of livestock.
  • Keep livestock humanely, and in family groups.
  • Pigs loosen the soil and till the terraces.
  • Direct pigs to loosen desired soil by scattering feed.
  • Pigs can clean up fruit orchards, preventing rotting fruit from spreading fungus and mold, without damaging the fruit trees.
  • Pigs can also control snails.
  • Use a rotating paddock system when keeping pigs.
  • Keep wild and domestic cattle in paddocks and let them forage to stay healthy.
  • Birds are great for controlling insect population and helping to propagate plants. Provide them with good forage and habitat.
  • Free range poultry needs good habitat, protection from predators, and good forage plants.
  • Ponds with an island in the middle provide good protection against predators for ducks and geese.
  • Earth shelters can be used to house pigs and as storage cellars.
  • Cellars can also be built out of stone to last forever.

Ch. 3: Fruit Trees

  • Fruit trees provide food for animals and insects.
  • Fruit trees provide wood for homes, fuel, and furniture.
  • Fruit trees provide shade against the sun and also stabilize soil.
  • Plant fruit trees wherever possible.
  • Wild fruit trees can pollinate cultivated fruit trees.
  • You don’t need to prune, fertilize, or use chemical pesticides. Doing this trains them to depend on human care forever.
  • Leave all the branches below the graft intact.
  • Do not use a tree guard, hammer in a stake, or use chemical fertilizer.
  • Cover the base with mulch and stones.
  • Plant green manure around the base.
  • Create microclimates around the tree to give it protection.
  • Branches sink down under the weight of fruit, allowing sunlight to reach in. Do not prune.
  • Pruning also creates wounds and can introduce disease.
  • Side shoots and branches also protect the tree from deer from damaging the trunk.
  • Plant distraction plants such as fruit bushes and willow trees to protect fruit trees.

Ch. 4: Mushrooms

  • Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mycelium.
  • Mushrooms can be cultivated on wood, compost, or straw.
  • It’s easiest to grow mushrooms on wood.
  • Softwoods gives faster yields, if that’s what you want.
  • Use only fresh, healthy wood.
  • Inoculation is easier than growing from spores.
  • The key to mushroom growing is the right combination of sun, moisture, and substrate.
  • Snails will try to eat your mushrooms.
  • You can also cultivate wild mushrooms by inoculating in the wild forest areas.

Ch. 5: Gardens

  • Try to keep gardens closer to the home.
  • Plant vegetables, medicinal, and culinary plants in your garden.
  • Natural medicine is being replaced by more effective modern medicine. However, natural medicine is safer and still effective.
  • A cold frame can extend the growing season.
  • When you weed the garden, place weeds on the ground as cover and mulch.
  • In the spring, you can lightly loosen the soil.
  • There is no need to dig soil over. It is harmful because it disturbs micro-organisms and worms.
  • Watering in the garden should be limited to dry weather. Use lots of mulch to help protect plants from drying out.
  • Adding compost is not required, though it is helpful.
  • Mulching is important. Mulching is basically surface composting and happens in nature. Spread mulch loosely because mulch needs oxygen for decomposition.
  • Natural liquid fertilizer is useful for nutrients and repelling pests.
  • Pest problems are an indication of an imbalance.
  • Monocultures are an imbalance, so there will be pests.
  • Lack of natural predators is an imbalance, so there will be pests.
  • Restore natural balance and pests should not be a problem.
  • Non-indigenous pests are an exception and should be controlled more aggressively.
  • Create good habitat for garden helpers like lizards, birds, worms, and predatory insects.
  • Create enough good forage to distract garden critters from your vegetable garden and fruit trees.
  • Encourage lots of earthworms by giving them lots of mulch and stones for good living conditions. Consider breeding earthworms in your garden by burying food compost in your garden.

Ch. 6: Projects

  • Example project in Scotland.
  • Example project in Thailand.

Built From Scratch by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank

The Big Idea: Clarify your core values and make sure everyone knows them.

Core Values
1. Excellent customer service
2. Taking care of our people
3. Developing entrepreneurial spirit
4. Respect for all people
5. Building strong relationships
6. Doing the right thing
7. Giving back to our communities
8. Shareholder return

Ch 1: Two Regular Guys

  • Two Guys discount retail was destroyed by overexpansion.
  • Bernie started off as a controller for Handy Dan hardware stores.

Ch 2: Origins

  • There is transactional banking and there is relationship banking.
  • The vision for Home Depot was created in 1976. There were too many small chains, no national companies, and prices are too high.
  • Home Depot would buy directly from manufacturers for increased margins and build immense warehouse stores for higher sales volumes.

Ch 3: The Financier

  • Ross Perot nearly invested $2mm for 70% of Home Depot, which would now be worth $50bn+.
  • Home Depot found seed capital elsewhere.

Ch 4: The Merchant, Act I

  • Merchandising is a core competency for Home Depot.
  • For Home Depot, merchandising is knowing what to buy and how to sell it in the stores.

Ch 5: The First Stores

  • Atlanta was chosen over Boston, Dallas, and LA, because of demographics and economics.
  • Home Depot got the cash it needed for inventory because of its relationships with bankers.
  • The stores were meant to look more like warehouses than showrooms.
  • Some deep discount sales brought customers into the first stores, which led to word of mouth.
  • Home Depot lost money in 1979 but quickly turned it around and made a profit in 1980.
  • Home Depot went public in 1981, which financed expansion into Florida.

Ch 6: The Associates

  • Take good care of the customer.
  • Empower associates to make decisions.
  • Pay people what they are worth.
  • Hire the best people and pay them more than the competitor.
  • Offer stock options or a stock purchase program to let all employees be owners.
  • Do what you can to keep associate turnover low.
  • Take care of associates and they’ll take care of customers.
  • Work hard and also work smart. People need a balanced life.
  • Don’t ask your managers or associates to do anything you wouldn’t do.
  • Sometimes you need to untrain bad habits that associates pick up at other companies.
  • Don’t be afraid to hire senior citizens.
  • Invest time in training and developing people.
  • Home Depot offers apron badges for key accomplishments.

Ch 7: The Customers

  • New executives always spend time in the stores.
  • Associates are expected to walk customers to the product, not just point.
  • How-To Clinics were developed because Home Depot cared about customers and their projects.
  • The Home Depot return policy is flexible because they trust the customer.
  • Associates are expected to be responsible for customer service.

Ch 8: Building the Brand

  • Low prices are just the beginning.
  • Home Depot’s size made national advertising finally cost-effective.
  • Home Depot wanted to become synonymous with home improvement.
  • Home Depot copied the Wal-mart employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
  • Everyday low prices was a better strategy for more consistent sales than occasional sales discounting.
  • Home Depot spent millions on the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and became part of the fabric of America.

Ch 9: The Competition

  • Home Depot is far ahead of Lowe’s.
  • When you copy somebody and don’t really understand what they’re doing, you’re never going to be as good as the original. That’s Lowe’s problem.
  • Home Depot can never beat specialty stores and so they will continue to exist.
  • Core values remain the same but everything else is subject to innovation and disruption.
  • Retailers can’t ever stay the same. Times change and retailers either adapt or die.
  • The focus is always on the customer. Home Depot doesn’t need to beat the competition, they need to win the customer.

Ch 10: Growth

  • Walmart founders always have retained humility, despite their incredible success.
  • Walmart reached $10bn in sales by concentrating on stores, particularly control of merchandise, distribution, finances, and infrastructure.
  • Home Depot gets lower prices by paying invoices immediately instead of net 30.
  • Home Depot makes buying decisions on the local level, instead of centrally.
  • Vendors generally ship inventory directly to stores, instead of to a distribution center. This saves time and money.
  • Secure twice the capital you think you need. It gives you the confidence and financial strength to do what’s best for the long-run.
  • Hire people who are overqualified at first and let them grow with you. Payroll is an investment, not an expense.
  • In the early days, Home Depot managers worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, to open new stores.
  • It’s not easy being a public company, but without the IPO, Home Depot would still be a chain of four stores in Atlanta.
  • The board of directors agreed to cap annual growth at 25%, to protect the Home Depot culture from expanding too rapidly.
  • During expansion, Home Depot learned the importance of planning and then learning when to adjust and improvise.
  • The 24-hour Home Depot concept was driven by customers.
  • Home Depot stocks contractor brands for the pros, but they have become popular with the DIY.

Ch 11: The Merchant, Act II

Ch 12: Strategic Partners

  • Bankers and vendor relationships were key, especially since Home Depot did not use distributors.
  • Home Depot works with vendors to improve their products.
  • Eventually, Home Depot developed or bought in-house brands of tools, such as Ridgid.

Ch 13: How We Manage

  • Humility is key. Accept that they are people smarter than you and hire them.
  • What works in Atlanta might necessarily work in Maine.
  • Give your managers firm boundaries at first and then loosen them as they earn your trust.
  • Some things are the same from store to store. Some things are flexible. Some things are completely dependent on the store.
  • Hire people who are overqualified and let them grow with the company.
  • As you scale, keep a close eye on fiscal discipline.
  • Success depends on teamwork.
  • Communication is key. Avoid bureaucracy by keeping lines of communication open.
  • Store walks are great for keeping executives close to the stores.
  • Employee stock ownership program comes with a 7-year vesting period so it had a chance to build value over time.
  • Best Practices program is how good ideas spread from one store to the entire chain.
  • Teach employees core values and you won’t have to micro-manage.
  • Use 360 feedback to develop people.
  • Establish team-building programs to establish trust and improve communication.
  • Never let the cancer of bureaucracy into your organization.
  • Executives serve managers. Managers serve associates. Associates serve customers.
  • The main office in Atlanta is not called “Headquarters.” It’s called “Store Support Center.”

Ch 14: The Communities We Serve

  • Do the right thing and give back to the community.
  • Don’t just encourage stores to do community service, give them a budget for it.

Ch 15: The Future

  • Growth will come from the core business, professional customers, international expansion, specialty stores, convenience stores.
  • Future leaders will be better than the founders.
  • It’s the leader’s job to train people to be better than him.

Ch 16: Legacy

  • It’s important to stay close to the stores and to the associates.
  • The founders still walk around stores and talk to associates.
  • Opportunities are still out there for anybody with the courage to reach out.
  • Starting Home Depot looks easy now, but there was often a lot of pain, a lot of struggle, and many lucky breaks.

The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

The Big Idea: focus on fundamentals and execution (The Standard of Performance), instead of focusing on the score and on the competition.

Part I: My Standard of Performance

  • Failure is a part of success. Everyone gets knocked down.
  • The Standard of Performance is the set of core values, principles, and ideals that define the organization. Implementing the Standard of Performance is more important than any strategies and tactics you might implement.
  • Bill Walsh wanted the 49ers to be the pinnacle of professionalism in the NFL.
  • Practices were precise and demanding, never sloppy.
  • Continuous improvement was more important than victory.
  • Character, intelligence, work ethic, and fit was more important than raw talent.
  • The leader’s job is to teach and to encourage everyone else to teach.
  • Champions behave like champions before they are champions.
  • If you place a premium on fundamentals and consistent execution, you can perform reliably in big games and in big moments.

Part II: Innovation, Planning, and Common Sense

  • Innovation is often born out of necessity and resourcefulness.
  • Always be quick to share credit (and accept blame.)
  • Contingency planning was one of the 49ers’ secret weapons. Be prepared for anything. Hail Mary’s are not a strategy.
  • Analyze your vulnerabilities and take action to counter or protect them.
  • The truth is hidden in the numbers. Follow key metrics more closely then big milestones or wins/losses.

Part III: Fundamentals of Leadership

  • There are many equally valid leadership styles.
  • The common trait, however, is an indomitable will to succeed.
  • Know when to persevere and know when to quit. It’s a delicate balance that requires distinguishing a good plan from a bad plan.
  • Sweat the small stuff, but only the small stuff that actually matters.
  • Leaders must be both subject matter experts and delegation experts.
  • Leaders teach others and show the entire organization how to teach each other.
  • You don’t need to shout, stomp, and strut to be a good leader. Joe Montana was a quiet but incredibly effective leader.
  • Treat people like people.
  • Maintain a positive atmosphere.
  • Know that humor has its place.
  • Give no VIP treatment.
  • Show interest in your people and their families.
  • Don’t let animosity linger.
  • Praise is more powerful than blame.
  • Discipline is based on pride in the profession and attention to details.
  • Officers must be seen on the front lines during action.
  • Bill Walsh’s praise was sparse but meaningful.
  • Employees thrive in an environment where they know exactly what is expected of them.
  • Don’t mistake activity for achievement. — John Wooden
  • Being a good listener is the key to good communication.
  • Don’t let rank, titles, or status impede open communication.
  • Leadership is about teaching skills, attitudes, and goals to the organization.
  • Persistence is essential because knowledge is rarely imparted on the first attempt. You must drill over and over.

Part IV: Essentials of a Winning Team

  • High expectations of your team are the key to winning.
  • Let your people know they are part of something special.
  • You are only as good as your people, so hire only the best.
  • Traits to look for in hires: skills, energy and enthusiasm, ability to spot talent, ability to communicate, loyalty to others.
  • How to keep people working well together: clear expectations, open communication, flexibility in method (but not core values), alignment with core values.
  • Be aware that success can breed over-confidence and complacency.
  • Place a premium on people who exhibit great desire to push themselves. (Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig)
  • Ego can kill an organization.
  • Never ignore the front-line (guys in the trenches) because they will generally pave the way to success or failure.
  • The most powerful way to maximize someone’s potential is to say, “I believe in you.”
  • There are times to sprint, but success is more like a marathon than a sprint.
  • You can’t teach work ethic or willpower.
  • Don’t waste energy on enemies.
  • Focus on the process, not the prize.
  • Make your own mentors by seeking out experts and asking questions.

Part V: Looking For Lessons in My Mirror

  • Jerry Rice and Joe Montana are in the Hall of Fame because of their focus on fundamentals.
  • The starting point for everything is work ethic.
  • Teach your team how to teach their team. Build an organization of teachers.
  • What goes around comes around. Treat people well.
  • Know how to delegate well.
  • Eliminate bad hires or toxic people quickly and compassionately.
  • The best marketing strategy is to build a good product.
  • Don’t expect quick results. Building a winning organization takes time.

Tribes by Seth Godin

The Big Idea: In today’s world, where geography doesn’t matter, tribes are thriving. Tribes are about connection and caring. Leaders of tribes build connection and caring into the tribe.

  • Human beings need to belong.
  • You can’t have a tribe without a leader, so learn about leadership.
  • Everyone is expected to lead.
  • Geography used to restrict the boundaries of tribes but the internet changed that.
  • Leadership is pulling, not pushing.
  • It’s better to make the rules than to follow them.
  • Leadership is not management. Management is getting things done. Leadership is about creating change and inspiring people.
  • Leaders are not afraid of change.
  • Authority does not equal leadership.
  • Two things to turn a group into a tribe: shared interest, a way to communicate.
  • A leader of a tribe encourages members to communicate with each other.
  • Tribes aren’t about stuff. They are about connections, in the context of a shared interest.
  • A crowd is a tribe without a leader and without communication.
  • An artist needs 1,000 true fans. A corporation needs more than 1,000 but fewer than it thinks. True fans are much more important than average customers.
  • Real leaders give back generously to their tribe and help the tribe grow closer.
  • Change is made by acting first and asking for forgiveness later.
  • The best followers are not blind sheep but vibrant fanatics.
  • One person with a persistent vision can make changes happen.
  • Industries don’t die by surprise. The signals are always there.
  • Life is too short to be unhappy and mediocre.
  • Publish a manifesto, connect with followers, encourage followers to connect with each other.
  • It’s powerful to exclude outsiders.
  • Be willing to be wrong. Being wrong isn’t fatal.
  • The big win for nonprofits is turning donors into patrons and activists. Encourage donors to network and volunteer. And vice versa.
  • Caring is the emotion at the center of the tribe. Members of a tribe care about the tribe and each other.
  • The secret of effective leadership is to first listen deeply.
  • Success and change happen a little at a time. Drip, drip, drip. It takes time.
  • You can’t bring permanent change in from the outside.
  • Real leaders don’t care about who gets the credit. There’s no record about Martin Luther King, Jr., or Gandhi whining about credit.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

The Big Idea: The presence of cognitive biases means we don’t always act rationally. Cialdini outlines six weapons of influence which can be used to influence behavior. Even if you aren’t a salesperson, you are a consumer so it’s good to be aware.

1. Reciprocation

  • We tend to reciprocate a favor, even if it is unsolicited.
  • Start by asking for a large favor and then expect a concession to the real favor you want.
  • Selling down works better than selling up.

2. Commitment and Consistency

  • After making an initial choice, we tend to stand by that choice over time. People usually don’t switch sides after they have committed.
  • In a debate, start with a small area of agreement or concession and build from there. People want to stay consistent.
  • We are more consistent in our commitment if we did it for our own purpose rather than from external reward or pressure.
  • Bribing children doesn’t work.

3. Social Proof

  • People like to follow the crowd (of people like them or people they want to be.)
  • Examples: canned laughter, tip jars, Jonestown, peer learning, bystander effect.

4. Liking

  • People want to please others whom they like.
  • Attractive people are more persuasive.
  • People like others who are similar to them.
  • Compliments and flattery work.
  • Familiarity increases persuasiveness.
  • Establish a connection between your product and an attractive or winning person.

5. Authority

  • We obey authority mindlessly in many cases.
  • Titles, uniforms, and appearances convey authority.

6. Scarcity

  • Losing something is more painful than gaining something.
  • Something that is hard to obtain is more valuable than something that is easier to obtain.
  • People fight fiercely to retain something they worked for.
  • Sometimes it’s better to be censored than publicized. (Eg. Some “secret information” the industry doesn’t want you to know.)
  • Indifference towards a lover becomes passion when a rival appears.
  • Scarcity+rivalry drives up prices in bidding wars. Always mention a rival buyer when selling something.

Step 25: Joel Salatin On Nature Laughing Last, The Respect Of Seasons, and The Terrible Twos

The Big Idea: Follow the four seasons in your life. In the spring, you plant new seeds. In the summer, you work the land. In the fall, you harvest the crops. In the winter, you let the soil rest. 

  • Don’t be so ego-centric to think you can beat laws of nature and laws of physics.
  • We will all get older and die, so get moving today.
  • Starting a business is like having a child. The first year keeps you up at night. The second year is like the terrible two’s. Eventually, your business will take care of you in your old age.
  • It took 50 years for Warren Buffett to become a billionaire (7 => 57), so start now.
  • Becoming a millionaire takes time.
  • Most entrepreneurs move around too much, stick with one thing.
  • It might take 10,000 hours to obtain mastery.
  • It might take 10 dark years to become a successful artist.
  • Follow the four seasons in your life.
  • Mass media shows us stories of successes (autumn) but never shows us stories of hard work (summer).
  • During the summer, work the land (plan and work).
  • During the autumn, harvest the crops (collect the rewards).
  • During the winter, let the soil rest (read and rest).
  • During the spring, plant seeds (experiment and test).
  • Long hours and hard work will be required during certain times in your life or business.
  • Don’t forget to appreciate each season while you’re there.

Tai Lopez is an entrepreneur, investor, and blogger who runs an awesome online book club. 67 Steps is a lecture series teaching how to be successful in health, wealth, love, and happiness.  

The Right and Wrong Stuff by Carter Cast

The Big Idea: High potential people stumble in their careers most often because of a lack self-awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses. Fantastic advice in this book.

  • The five archetypes of high potential people who stumble:
    • Captain Fantastic: high performer but terrible interpersonal skills
    • Solo Flier: high performer when working by himself but doesn’t know how to lead
    • Version 1.0: high performer but resistant to change
    • One-Trick Pony: high performance limited to one skill
    • Whirling Dervish: lots of potential but can’t manage time or projects
  • Many high performers are completely unaware of their weaknesses.
  • The book has specific advice and tools to help address weaknesses that could derail a career.
  • High performers: love learning, have high emotional intelligence, and have lots of perseverance.
  • High performers have a growth mindset (Carol Dweck.)
  • Understand what motivates you and find the right job and organization for you.
  • Five key motivations: achievement, affiliation, power, autonomy, and purpose.
  • No one is going to care as much as you about your own development. Seek knowledge, feedback, and mentoring.

 

To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

The Big Idea: Even if you’re not a “salesman”, you probably have to sell or persuade people all the time. Therefore, learn how to sell.

  • Everyone sells.
  • Physicians sell patients on treatments. Lawyers sell juries on verdicts. Teachers sell students on coursework. Entrepreneurs sell investors on visions. Writers sell producers on scripts. Coaches sell players on plays.
  • Before the internet, sellers had all the information on their product so they were able to deceive and manipulate.
  • Today, buyers have more information and leverage, so the balance has shifted.
  • Instead of Always Be Closing, the new ABC is Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.
  • Attunement
    • Show empathy
    • Be humble
    • Mimic strategically
    • Put yourself in their shoes
    • Be ambivert not extrovert
    • Ask others “where are you from?”
  • Buoyancy
    • Instead of stating “I will ___,” ask yourself “how will I ___?”
    • 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions is better than infinite positivity.
    • Develop an optimistic explanatory style to deal with rejection: rejections are temporary not permanent, specific not universal, external not personal.
  • Clarity
    • The ability to move people hinges less on problem-solving than on problem-finding.
    • Problem finders tend to be more successful than problem solvers.
    • Problem finding is about asking the right questions and being good at curating information.
    • One of the most essential questions is “compared to what?” Frame your offerings in ways that contrast its alternatives and clarify its virtues.
    • 5 Frames: less frame (paradox of choice), experience frame (experience vs physical), label frame (names matter), blemished frame (include a negative), potential frame (potential is more powerful than actual)
    • “On a scale from 1 to 10…” “How can we move that up?”
    • Books: Influence, Made to Stick, Switch, Mindless Eating, Nudge
    • Ask 5 Whys
  • How to Pitch
    • Don’t present a pitch end-to-end. Start your pitch and invite the others to create it with you.
    • 1. The One Word Pitch. Simplify everything to one word.
    • 2. The Question Pitch. “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?”
    • 3. The Rhyming Pitch. “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
    • 4. The Subject Line Pitch. Utility first. Curiosity second.
    • 5. The Twitter Pitch.
    • 6. The Pixar Pitch. “Once upon a time…Every day…One day…Because of that…Until finally.”
  • Learn from improvisational theater. Listen closely. Make the other people look good.
  • Service is at the core of sales.
  • To serve, make it personal and make it purposeful. Eg. Radiologist viewing photos, hospital hand-washing to protect others, fundraisers reading stories about alumni who received scholarships.
  • Be grateful. Always act like the other guy is doing you the favor. No matter what.
  • Look at all your signs and ask if they are emotionally intelligent and well-designed.
  • Treat everyone well.