What do Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Elon Musk have in common?
They all read a lot.
Warren Buffett says that he spends about 80% of his day reading. Mark Zuckerberg reads a new book every week. Elon Musk has said that reading books taught him how to build rockets.
Books can inspire people to make the most important business decisions. We know because it's what happened at MailerLite. Today, I want to talk about the books that have had a massive impact on our business.
In 2010, MailerLite was selected as a finalist of Seedcamp, the European seed fund. But, we didn’t win the investment. It was devastating. Investors were saying that email was dead and that no one needed a new email marketing platform.
Rework motivated us to change our business strategy.
Instead of searching for investors, we decided to build a long-term, profitable business rather than a start-up project to sell after a few years. Now we're happy to have more than 700,000 customers who believe in our product.
Here are a few quotes from Rework that inspire us:
"It’s entirely your responsibility to make your dreams come true."
"You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy."
"Ideas are cheap and plentiful. The real question is how well you execute."
"Grow slow and see what feels right—premature hiring is the death of many companies."
"Use the power of no to get your priorities straight."
As our team grows, we are thinking more and more about how to organize our structure in a way that fits us. We are interested in unconventional ways to run our business and Reinventing Organizations has opened our eyes to incredible new approaches.
Frederic Laloux introduces teal organizations in the book. Teal organizations are characterized by traits like self-managed teams, intuitive reasoning, and decentralized decision-making. Companies divide mostly into self-managing teams that have full power to make decisions, as well as mistakes.
The book made us think of ways to give more freedom and responsibilities to every member of MailerLite. For example, during our workations we host MailerFairs, where team members are divided into groups according to the projects that they worked on the previous 6 months. Every group has a booth and presents their projects to the entire team.
We prefer this group presentation approach rather than a presentation done by a manager or a report that you send to someone. Everyone has ownership. It’s fun and very productive as different team members learn what others are doing and can ask different questions and give feedback.
Inspirational quotes from Reinventing Organizations:
"When trust is extended, it breeds responsibility in return. Emulation and peer pressure regulate the system better than hierarchy ever could."
"All wisdom traditions posit the profound truth that there are two fundamental ways to live life: from fear and scarcity or from trust and abundance."
"When organizations are built not on implicit mechanisms of fear but on structures and practices that breed trust and responsibility, extraordinary and unexpected things start to happen."
When you start a business, your small team works night and day to create a product. The same people likely handle marketing, sales and customer support. You strive to survive. You use intuition to run your company and it’s totally fine. But if you want to grow, you have to learn how to delegate tasks and trust other people.
Principles taught us how important it is to understand what your company is all about beyond the products you sell. To share your values and explain how you run the company, you have to name and systemize them.
For example, all of our website and blog images are photos of our team members. We never use stock photos. But we never talked about this or made this a rule. It just happened. Why? We never thought it was anything special, but then we realized it is.
We believe that people prefer to buy products or use services from people that they can trust. We want to show our human side in everything we do. So now, everyone on the team knows our image strategy and we are more thoughtful about getting a variety of team photos.
Moreover, we’re working on our Handbook to systemize how we work. Team members can find out how we approach everything from new ideas and what fonts we use to why we invest in certain software tools or types of ad campaigns.
Quotes from Principles that inspire us:
"I learned that if you work hard and creatively, you can have just about anything you want, but not everything you want. Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones."
"Pain + Reflection = Progress"
"The people who work for you should constantly challenge you."
"My painful mistakes shifted me from having a perspective of 'I know I’m right' to 'How do I know I’m right?'”
"Systemize your decision making."
We previously believed that a team was a group of people that work in the same office. Remote changed our opinion and inspired to try something new: hire a remote employee. It was a huge eye-opener for us. Suddenly we were able to hire the best talent from all over the world.
Now MailerLite’s team consists of 70+ talented people that live in 21 different locations. It's the reason we can provide 24/7 customer support.
How do you communicate as a team? We use Slack for daily communication. 15Five helps us to know how team members feel. Each employee spends 15 minutes a month writing a report that takes their manager no more than 5 minutes to read. The idea is simple, yet it helps us enormously.
The report includes questions like:
It helps us know when someone feels sick, had a break up with a girlfriend or wants the team to visit an art exhibit – the things that matter the most. Ironically, now we know more about our team members than we did while sitting together in the same office.
Quotes from Remote that changed our mind:
"You can’t let your employees work from home out of fear they’ll slack off without your supervision. You’re a babysitter, not a manager. Remote work is very likely the least of your problems."
"Remote work has opened the door to a new era of freedom and luxury. A brave new world beyond the industrial-age belief in The Office."
"If you let them, humans have an amazing power to live up to your high expectations of reasonableness and responsibility."
The book written by the CEO of Zappos tells the company’s story and how important customer support is in every business.
Our main value is to focus on our current customers. We believe that it’s much easier to grow when you constantly deliver value to your current customers and make them feel special. That’s one of the reasons they stay with MailerLite and recommend us to others.
We trust people more than ads, which is why it makes perfect sense to take care of our current customers first. When they love your product or service, they'll recommend your business to their friends or strangers online.
This is exactly what we do at MailerLite. We call it the upside-down marketing funnel.
Inspirational quotes from Delivering Happiness:
"We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company."
"Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees."
"We take most of the money that we could have spent on paid advertising and instead put it back into the customer experience. Then we let the customers be our marketing."
"Another common trap that many marketers fall into is focusing too much on trying to figure out how to generate a lot of buzz, when really they should be focused on building engagement and trust. I can tell you that my mom has zero buzz, but when she says something, I listen."
Is there a book that had an impact on you or your business? Does any book inspire you to change your team management or business model?
I’m Ilma, COO at MailerLite. I love seeing our customers succeed. When they win, we win (like being named one of the top 5 fastest growing SaaS companies). Email is my passion, although I took a rather unusual path. Before MailerLite, I worked in finance and art, which turned out to be the perfect mix for marketing.