Books That Helped Shape Our Business

We’ve been working on turning Travis CI into a business for more than a year now. While we’re working hard to go public for everyone to use our platform for private repositories, there have been quite a few books that have inspired us.

You’ll notice that none of them relates to code or continuous integration, but that’s a good thing. Building a product involves only so much code, but it involves a lot more of marketing, customer support, improving the user experience, finding the right price, and a lot more.

I’ve been reading a lot of books to give me food for thought in these directions, and I wanted to share some of them.

The Knack

The Knack deals a lot with the every day of running a business. While a lot of it is drawn from running bike courier and box storage companies, there’s a lot of inspiration to draw for online businesses like ours, in particular when it comes to numbers (finding the right price, margins, and so on) and handling customers. A highly recommended and easily approachable read.

Pricing With Confidence: 10 Ways to Stop Leaving Money on the Table

Finding the right price for a product is never an easy task. It certainly has cost us months to get to a point where we’re comfortable, and it’s thanks to this book.

If you need to find outside reasoning on how to find the right price for your product, this book is for you.

To give you some ideas on what the book is about, you should read Amy Hoy’s posts on it: “The Hazards of Cake and Icing Pricing”, “When Customers Bitch About Your Price”, and “Will Low Prices Help You Sell More?”.

Don’t Just Roll The Dice

I consider this the little brother of “Pricing With Confidence”. It’s a short read on finding the right price, and will make you want to know more about motivations behind higher prices, value addons, and all that.

Best of all: it’s free!

How To Make Friends and Influence People

A classic in its own right, dating back to the 1930s, but still very relevant when it comes to dealing with other people.

Customer support involves people approaching you in all kinds of mood, and it’s the art of turning every customer around by treating them right. This book was an eye-opener for me in this regard.

It’s a must-read not just when you’re looking at running your own business, but to help you deal with all kinds of people every day.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

This is an incredible book, full of empirical proof on how humans decide on things. It starts out with a great bang that’ll help you structure your pricing right, gives you inspiration on how you can utilize free stuff to sell your product, and a lot more.

An inspiration read, full of good stuff. Best of all, it’s all backed up by studies to give you a great insight on how humans decide on things.

Start Small, Stay Small

A book full of good examples on running a profitable small business without feeling the need to go for insane growth, but rather to go for a profitable product, how to market it, and how to find the right audience. An easy but great read.

The Power of Habit

A great exploration of human habits and how companies utilize them to benefit their own business and how they shape our every day. It may not seem about business on the surface, but everything in this book is very applicable for turning your customers into loyal customers and making them happy.

Drop The Pink Elephant: 15 Ways to Say What You Mean…and Mean What You Say

This book has taught us a lot on how we talk to customers, and how we compose blog posts, marketing messages, product information, and even how we write our post-mortems.

It’s about dropping ambiguous words from what you say to other people and be more to the point. Instead of saying no, don’t or anything negative, it’s about focusing on positive outcome, on focusing what you want to achieve.

Most importantly, this book is about honesty, an honorable trait in any business.