Cofounder of FutureGirlCorp, fashion, tech and leadership expert and the eternal optimist, Pia Stanchina, shares her sources of business inspiration with us, from favourite books to podcasts and videos. Take note ladies!
A favourite marketing book...
Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares.
"Build it and they will come". Unless you're a state sponsored product with a monopoly in a socialist state, that's probably the fastest way to fail.
Just as important as building a great product, is developing a great marketing strategy that gets you traction. Traction is that sweet phenomenon of consistent and explosive growth. If you're building any kind of marketplace, software or want to raise VC, you're gonna need traction to develop scale.
Key Takeaway… This book is kind of the marketing equivalent to The Lean Start-up: instead of teaching you to stay lean and iterate your product, it teaches you how to avoid wasting money and time on marketing techniques that happened to come first to your mind or were recommended by others. This gets you methodically mapping out the channels available against what is most relevant for your customer base and rigorously testing which channel works best to get people to buy your product. One of the best parts about it is that you can evolve your tactics as your business grows and you move from early adopters to the next stage of growth and so on.
Read This If … You’re building your product and need to figure out your customer acquisition plan. However, the "Bullseye" exercise is a valuable one to practise at any point in your business's life - getting you to take a step back, focus on all the assets and insights available to you and maximising the impact you can have at minimal cost.
My favourite blog...
It's hard to be a good leader. Being a leader means mastering an elusive combination of skills - inspiring people to want to work for your cause, coaching them to manifest their potential and removing barriers so they can actually do their jobs. That all sounds dandy when you read it, but actually doing that on a daily basis is hard.
Peter Bregman's articles on Harvard Business Review cut to the heart of many of the underlying issues in business: people. Reading his articles on Harvard Business Review for years has taught me to look for the psychological element in my thinking, feeling, actions and reactions. It's helped me become a better, calmer, more focused and productive version of myself. Now, I consciously practise listening rather than speaking, taking feedback and focusing on the desired future outcome of a situation rather than the emotions it may trigger in me at the time. This may sound basic and not business-related, but when you inquiry into most of the difficulties in businesses, it's usually down to people being less authentic, courageous or effective than they could. And that's usually down to internal struggles.
Key Takeaway… Mastering leadership starts with mastering your own mind! This is a good reminder to practise getting to know yourself better by regularly inquiring into your own actions and reactions, taking ownership for them and becoming the most courageous and powerful leader you can.
Read This If… You want to actively develop your leadership style. Learn to recognise your own leadership, foster your emotional courage and exhibit behaviours that model and stimulate growth in yourself, your team and organisation.
A favourite YouTube channel...
Harvard Innovation Labs: Start-Up Secrets with Michael Skok
These videos take you inside the Harvard Innovation Labs classroom where the humble, brilliant and honestly adorable serial entrepreneur, VC investor and Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard, Michael Skok hosts workshops revealing the secrets behind building and scaling start-ups successfully. Combining his rich knowledge and network, Michael Skok teaches you the frameworks and theory, alternating with live case studies in the form of entrepreneurs that he'll invite to talk through their personal experience of the topic of the day.
Key Takeaway… From the things you know you don't know to the things you don't know you don't know, Michael Skok's classes are a game-changer for start-up entrepreneurs.
Watch This If … You're at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey and have an acute question, like "Do you Have What It Takes", just generally need a mind refresher on "Turning Products Into Companies" or want to define/redefine your "Culture, Vision, Mission".
My favourite podcast...
How I Built This (from NPR)
The empathic and often hilarious journalist Guy Raz hosts this "podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built." His conversations with an all-star roster of diverse entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Kate & Andy Spade or Beto Perez & Alberto Perlman (the founders of Zumba) are candid, in-depth and insightful. I'm constantly pausing to take notes or chuckling away on the tube and sometimes, full-on lol'ing. Hearing first-hand about the sacrifices, passion and grit it takes to "make it" is incredibly inspiring, empowering and totally addictive: I've not finished an episode yet without feeling pumped to go out and take my own shot(s) at greatness.
(Was so excited to discover Honest Tea at cafe Nero the other day as there's a great "How I built this" episode with the founder!).
Key Takeaway… What looks like overnight success usually took a lot of hard work and dedication over an extended period of time. This podcast makes it clear that success is something you build, one step at a time and that stems from you making the most of your unique combination of perspective, talent, skills, circumstances, etc…
Listen To This… On the tube, on a flight, in the back of a cab - whenever you have some time you could fill. It's important to be surrounded by a peer group that inspires you to think bigger and better: this can be yours.
A favourite book on creating personal wealth...
Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
Most people save what they haven't spent at the end of the month. Smart women spend what they didn't save at the beginning of the month. From simple insights like that to the miracle of compound interest, this is one of my favourite books of all time. David Bach's stories about his financially savvy grandma, his authentic desire to help women capture the value they create and his simple, hands-on lessons changed my relationship with money.
Key Takeaway…The nine-step programme in this book is hands-on and helps you take control of your financial future at a pace that works for you and in a way that is aligned with what you value most in life. This read was an empowering journey of self-discovery for me. It changed my entire outlook from passive and intimidated to enthusiastic, action-oriented and ambitious.
Read This If… You dream of financial independence and security but aren't a "number persons", feel uncomfortable looking at your bank balance or just think you could be doing better but don't know where to start.