You could call Jessica Mah precocious, but that would probably be an understatement.
Mah has been coding since she was 8 years old. At 19, she co-founded inDinero, a financial services platform for small businesses. (inDinero, it's worth noting, wasn't her first business venture--she started a web hosting platform at the age of 12.)
Mah was lauded by the press as a "female Mark Zuckerberg" when inDinero launched. But a year later, she realized the business needed to pivot or it was going to crash and burn.
Unlike many struggling founders, Mah was able to turn things around. Today, the business has $2.9 million in annual revenue, with a staggering growth rate over the past three years of 2,686 percent. That makes inDinero the 146th-fastest-growing private company in America, by Inc.'s count. The founder's secret sauce? Couples therapy with her co-founder, and a good helping of books. Mah says that she's on track to read 150 titles before the year is over, primarily memoirs and biographies.
In particular, Mah says that Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek was critical to inDinero's turnaround because it made her a more efficient manager. "Tim talks about only checking email twice a day ... However, I decided to take that up a notch by instituting the use of Slack company-wide. But why stop there? I also stopped checking my email and started having an assistant bring bigger game-changing emails to my attention," she adds.
Here's what else is on Mah's recommended reading list for entrepreneurs.
1. The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, by William Thorndike
Published in 2012, The Outsiders is a critical look at the trajectory of eight, high-profile CEOs, including Warren Buffett, Henry Singleton, John Malone, and Katherine Graham. In the book, Thorndike argues that the best CEOs share a common trait: They are masters of capital allocation. The takeaway? Numbers are the single most important indicator of your success.
2. Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People, by G. Richard Shell
Bargaining for Advantage is a pragmatic text, offering concrete tips for leaders who want to become better negotiators. Shell, a professor and director of the famed Wharton Executive Negotiation Workshop, uses stories and relevant research designed to help you discover your own negotiating style.
3. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done, by Peter Drucker
Drucker lays out five essential habits that all great leaders embrace: time management, choosing where to contribute, honing your company's strengths, setting key priorities, and considering those priorities when making executive decisions. In other words, you will rise or fall based on your ability to distinguish between productive and unproductive tasks as a CEO.
4. Reinventing Organizations, by Frederick Laloux
Praised by The New York Times as putting "soul back into business," the book comes, self-published, from first-time author Frederick Laloux. Laloux left his comfy consulting position back in 2011 to pursue research into what a thoughtful, effective, and productive organization might look like.
Reinventing Organizations, which was published in 2014, evaluates 12 companies across Europe and the U.S. that aptly represent what Laloux deems to be "soulful" management, according to his 29 principles. In short, these are companies where employees don't have to leave their spiritual and emotional selves at the door. Often this means doing away with the soul-crushing hierarchy of traditional organizational structures and empowering employees to self-manage. If you want to see an example of a Laloux-influenced company, look no further than Zappos.
5. Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, by Danny Meyer
Meyer's 2007 book weaves together elements of his past and personal experiences with savvy tips for restaurateurs, and business leaders more generally. The Union Square Hospitality Group founder argues that a model of "hospitalitocracy," or killing the customer with kindness, is the key to any company's success. Generosity can drive revenues--if it's authentic.
6. Fiction bonus: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
Plath's semi-autobiographical novel, published in 1963, chronicles one woman's experience with mental illness and depression. The woman, Esther Greenwood, finds herself bemused by the glittering promise of New York City upon graduating from college.
Her trajectory may read as familiar to entrepreneurs grappling with the psychological price of entrepreneurship.
"Esther's trials and tribulations sort of parallel my wild ride with success, failure, and a good comeback," says Mah. "Maybe Esther gets to return to college and makes a comeback of her own?"