We all know it’s hard for tech entrepreneurs to find time to read actual books. But there’s much wisdom on those dusty shelves, with valuable lessons for leaders of SaaS companies.
So, what books about tech startups should every SaaS leader read?
Here are five books you should pick up in your hours away from your laptop screen this summer or on your next vacation.
by Ben Horowitz
Awkward title, but this gem from Ben Horowitz is the best book on leading a startup company from early stages to scale. It’s most productive when it smacks you in the face, wakes you up, and forces you to focus on the problems you must take responsibility for and work through. Don’t expect a picnic. But then, you hopefully didn’t step into the CEO role expecting to be a fat cat relaxing around a pool while others build your business.
by Geoffrey A. Moore
Originally written when SaaS wasn’t a word and software was sold on discs, this book’s strategic prescriptions are debatably more relevant in the era of SaaS. It’s also been updated, which helps, but the principles remain the same — focus on a beachhead market and serve it deeply (grab your niche and own it!). Then use that beachhead to cross the chasm from early adopters to early mainstream (where many startups fail!), and only then spread to serving adjacent markets. The world of SaaS, in which you can develop software with minimal expense and deliver it digitally across the world, makes this tried-and-true strategy even more effective than ever.
by Jason Lemkin and Aaron Ross
No one is more articulate about how to scale up customer acquisition — sales and marketing — than Lemkin of SaaStr fame and Aaron Rogers, who helped scale Salesforce.com’s sales systems through key stages of growth. Although every business is different, this book is as close as it gets to a “prescription” applicable to many SaaS businesses.
by Eric Ries
Although not specifically for SaaS businesses, The Lean Startup is a timeless book that can help any business in figuring out what its customers want and value, especially in the early stages of figuring out product-market fit. This book will push you to ship product without waiting for perfection (which you should do!), to iterate quickly when you realize what customers really love and want (or don’t want), and to monitor your product so you can see this customer feedback as quickly as statistically possible. Many of the author’s prescriptions apply best to B2C companies, but much of the book is applicable to B2B SaaS as well.
by Chrismon Nofsinger
Although it isn’t specifically about leading a SaaS business, this is the best page-for-page book on leadership. It’s short and packs a punch, making you think about how you’re leading, no matter how good a leader you think you are. To successfully build your SaaS business, you will need to evolve through “the Shift” as your company goes from 2 people, to 20, to 200, to 2,000. This process isn’t natural. It’s hard. Nofsinger provides a conceptual framework and examples to reflect on every day to grow your leadership abilities — which you’ll need to succeed!
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