Our 8 Must Reads

An entrepreneur’s life is full of questions, risks, and lots of adventure! While we can’t know what the future holds, we can paint a pretty good mental picture of possible outcomes through topical research. This is often where the best entrepreneurs set themselves apart. They thirst for more knowledge, answers, and resources, because they know the value of learning. At Union Kitchen, we encourage all of our entrepreneurs to embrace that inner nerd! Go home, watch YouTube videos of large scale CPG manufacturing lines, and read books about productivity and positive mindsets.

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When you gain significant awareness of your possibilities as an entrepreneur, you can then begin to shape the future as you want to see it.  “If you build it, they will come.” This simple line from Field of Dreams may in the moment seem silly, but what is that voice in Kevin Costner’s head really saying? If you create this thing that people would enjoy, they will come to enjoy it. One of our core values here at Union Kitchen is Make Things People Want. By using current trends and research to influence the path of your business, you are able to build a company that is far more likely to succeed! You’ve taken your research and repurposed it to guide the future of your business in a purposeful way.

The books below are a few recommended reads that have influenced the development of Union Kitchen and that we are a little bit obsessed with. 


1. The Machine that Changed the World by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos

The Machine that Changed the World revolves around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's $5 million, five-year-long study on the future of the automobile. Within, they discuss the key principles of what is today widely known as lean production: “Precisely specify value by specific product, identify the value stream for each product, make value flow without interruptions, let customers pull value from the producer, and pursue perfection.” They delve further, providing insights relating to value streams, efficiency (reduction of "waste"), continuous improvement (also known as a growth mindset) and product standardization. It is an excellent book for anyone interested in learning more about the optimization of mass production.


2. Good to Great by James Collins

This bestseller is a management book that discusses how companies develop from being “good” companies to “great” ones, and how most fail to make the transition. Collins used a large team of researchers who studied 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts, and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project to provide a cohesive look into the world of business development He defines “greatness” as performing significantly above market average and identifies and examines a number of key “great” companies. This book is particularly helpful in outlining helpful strategies to employ as well as harmful ones to avoid.


3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

This book is especially pertinent to anyone interested in creating a startup. Within, Ries describes his lean startup strategy: a methodology wherein a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning is used to help developing businesses shorten product development cycles and determine proactively whether a proposed business model is viable. Crucial to this methodology is the assumption that when startup companies invest their time into iteratively building products or services to meet the needs of early customers, the company can reduce market risks and avoid the need for large amounts of initial project funding and expensive product launches (and failures). 


4. Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Radical Candor is a management book that provides guidelines for “caring personally and challenging directly.” While not supporting any kind of unabashed form of brutal honesty, it advocates for dealing with problems head-on and with tact. Scott argues that the most efficient management style must allow space for earnest discussion without sacrificing kind-hearted personal engagement. This is a great read for anyone experiencing difficulty balancing honesty with subtlety.


5. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Former US Navy SEALs Willink and Babin use their book to discuss the leadership styles employed in the armed forces and how to apply them to the world of business.  After leaving their SEAL Teams, they launched Echelon Front, a leadership consultancy, to teach those same leadership principles to leaders in businesses throughout the civilian sector. Since that time, they have trained countless leaders and worked with hundreds of companies in virtually every industry across the U.S. and internationally, teaching them how to develop their own high-performance teams and most effectively lead those teams to dominate their battlefields. A great read for anyone trying to optimize their leadership strategy.


6. Leadership & Self Deception by The Arbinger Institute

Any good leader will understand that the needs of the team come before their own. Unfortunately, most people seemingly view the world through a “box”. Those “in the box”, , according to the Arbinger Institute, view the world as theirs for the taking and other people as the main source of their problems. It plainly obvious how this would be a problem for anyone looking to succeed as an entrepreneur. To solve this problem, people need to be able to operate “outside the box”. This entails the recognition that others have needs, fears, and desires of their own. This book is perfect for anyone looking to recognize how they might be “in the box” and how to live “outside the box”.


7. The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

In his book The Goal, business consultant Eliyahu M. Goldratt explains his “theory of constraints”. Written as a fictional novel, the story revolves around Alex Rogo. The manager of a production plant, where nothing is ever on schedule, must somehow fix the plant within three months. Luckily, Jonah, a distant acquaintance, is able to provide some useful information. Jonah explains that “bottlenecks”, constraints in the manufacturing process, often stifle a company’s ability to produce adequate output. For example, John points out that Alex still often uses antiquated machines in a modern manufacturing setting. Thanks to Jonah, Alex begins to employ the Socratic method to find and roots out bottlenecks and is able to improve productivity. Alex’s job, as well as his marriage, is saved. Although the book is fiction, the messages and the applications are very real. Anyone looking to improve productivity will find great value in The Goal.


8. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Whenever someone undertakes something new, it is almost inevitable that they will experience information overload. Written by Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less shows us how we can effectively avoid this through systematic discipline. Systematic discipline is, simply put, becoming more selective about what we view as essential. This allows to not get bogged down in frivolous detail and focus on the most important tasks at hand. This book explains how to do just that and is excellent for anyone, not just entrepreneurs, who want to better organize their lives.


We hope you enjoy these reads and that they inspire you to start your own food entrepreneurship journey!