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21 Entrepreneurs List Their Favorite Business Books to Help Inspire Others

As musician Frank Zappa once said, “So many books, so little time.” For a business owner or budding entrepreneur, books can be a life preserver. Of course valuable lessons often come from doing. Business lessons can be learned by trial and error and putting yourself out on the line. But the same lessons can also be had from a book. Reading about the errors and triumphs of other business leaders can prevent you from making mistakes and push you in the direction of success. Beyond lessons, a good business book can inspire you to lift your business to an even higher level. Below are a selection of business books chosen as favorites by entrepreneurs and business owners.

#1 – The Advantage

Image Credit: David Ciccarelli

I’m big on audiobooks. That being said, there is a book that has taught me the most about life and success this year. The best book I’ve listened to is The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. He covers the concept of organizational health and how culture beats out every other component of running a successful business. In it, the author goes through 6 key questions entrepreneurs need ask themselves and apply to their businesses and their lives. It’s formed a lot of my own decisions this year, and continues to do so every time I pick it up again for a refresher. I highly recommend it to anyone starting a company and/or managing one.

Thanks to David Ciccarelli, Voices.com

#2 – Seducing Strangers

Image Credit: Zac Halloran

Seducing Strangers by Josh Weltman. Josh was a co-producer of the hit show Mad Men and he brought he brings his real world advertising experience into the show and now into this great book. If you are trying to figure out what story you are trying to tell in your business, then pick this book up and give it your time. It helped me understand company attitude, messaging and our audience.

Thanks to Zac Halloran, Twill!

 

#3 – The Monk & The Riddle

Image Credit: Josh Reeves

The Monk and The Riddle by Randy Komisar, a professor of mine at Stanford. The book is about the purpose of life through his own experience. He brings up the idea of an extended life plan — the concept that somehow people think we’re going to do something now that might not be good but will enable us to do what we want in the future. But that mindset replicated over time means you never get to living the life you want. The main message is the journey itself matters. It’s the best way to build the best future.

Thanks to Josh ReevesGusto!

#4 – The E-Myth Revisited

Image Credit: Kerry Walls

True now as always, The E-Myth [Revisted] by Michael Gerber, talks about the key challenge I see over and over again with small business owners. If a business owner can break through this trap of running the business from “technician”, then they are on the path to make money and be successful.

Thanks to Kerry Walls, The Coaching Collaborative!

#5 – Ego is the Enemy

Image Credit: Danny Garcia

We document the tools startups use to grow by interviewing founders and CEOs of startups. I’m an avid reader. After joining Stacklist, I’ve been reading about 2-3 books a week from a wide range of topics on entrepreneurship, startups and personal development. A book I definitely encourage entrepreneurs to read is Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. It’s a book based on Stoic principles and teaches the importance of combating our ego. An entrepreneur should be focused on their work at every step of the way. We shouldn’t worry about rewards or recognition, we should find our path and work hard and diligently. If we succumb to our ego and vain metrics, the successes we based our lives on will be built on a fragile foundation that can crumble at any time.

Thanks to Danny Garcia, Stacklist!

#6 – The Success Principles

Image Credit: Anne-Marie Faiola

Book that inspires me most as an entrepreneur: No entrepreneur jumps into business knowing exactly how to run a company. Despite what you hear or read, people aren’t just born good at business. It takes years (decades!) to learn the ins and outs of the business world, and many mistakes will be made along the way. There is so much that can only be learned from experience, including how to manage your time and how to lead employees. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield has an amazing set of exercises throughout the entire book that help drive home many of the principles that any MBA program would teach in new and different ways. I’ve gone through this book many times over the years and find it inspirational. It’s almost like he’s taken many of the best business books of the last 50 years and distilled them down to their core, their top five pages, and then recreated the exercises and ideas for you in one book. I keep a stack of these in my office and often give this book away to new entrepreneurs.

Thanks to Anne-Marie Faiola, Bramble Berry!

#7 – The Art of War

Image Credit: Sebastien Koubar

In reference to your query on a book who inspires me, I can tell you that my best book is a very old one called The Art of War by Sun Tzu. The Art of War is not only a book about war. It’s a book about peace and strategy. Sun Tzu teaches you how to know yourself before to know the enemy (competition). You can apply the rules of the book at management: how to lead and manage people. But also marketing: how to sell and convince customers to choose you. I read the book 3 or 4 times and I try to apply the best rules to my daily life as an entrepreneur.

Thanks to Sebastien Koubar, Meetwo!

#8 – The Four Hour Workweek

Image Credit: Paul Anthony

Book that inspires: I read Tim Ferris’s book The Four Hour Workweek at least once a year. (I actually listen to the audio version). The concepts in the book are clear and motivating. Every time I listen I come away with new ideas. The book was written in 07, so some of the companies, websites and technology mentioned may be outdated, but the knowledge and advice is timeless. Personally I’m still working more than four hours a week, but I’m having more fun doing it!

Thanks to Paul Anthony, Long Island Comedy!

#9 – The 4-Hour Workweek & The $100 Startup

Image Credit: Arion Long

When deciding on entrepreneurship the books that inspired me the most were The 4-hour workweek and The $100 startup. These books inspired me because they pushed me to think outside of my own desires as a budding CEO and learn how to delegate, partner with other experts within my niche, and maximize both my time and efficiency in dealing with business matters. The 4-hour workweek was a crucial book to read because it provided a flexible outlook on the successes of other business owners who not only flourish, but have become to efficient that they were able to let go of the reigns so-to-speak, and spending a great deal of time doing what they love. The $100 Start-Up is a vital read for anyone pursuing their entrepreneurial passions with limited income….which is immeasurable for millennials like myself facing student debt, lower wages and more!

Thanks to Arion Long, The Femly Box!

#10 – The 30% Solution

Image Credit: Tracy Lamourie

Lew Bayer’s The 30% Solution: How Civility at Work Increases Retention, Engagement and Profitability. I read it earlier this year. It goes beyond the basics, and really makes you think about how you treat people has real world effect in the workplace. I’ve been thinking a lot about civility in the public sphere too, as I work with not for profits and sometimes politicians (I’m in PR and media relations). Especially these days its time to take a step back and look at how we treat each other and how we can improve it, and what that all means to the bottom line!

Thanks to Tracy Lamourie, Lamourie Public Relations!

#11 – Start with Why

Image Credit: Brandon Welch

Currently, my favorite book that really inspires me as an entrepreneur is Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It makes you rethink what you are saying to your customers, and how to say it more effectively, and why. The book does a great job of helping you articulate the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do.

Thanks to Brandon Welch, Doxy.me!

#12 – Think & Grow Rich

Image Credit: Fradel Barber

The book; Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill has been an inspiration to me as an entrepreneur. The principals written almost 80 years ago are still so relevant today and played such a major part in the direction my life took from that day forward, allowing me to achieve things beyond my wildest dreams! The title itself gives a clue as to how to attain wealth. It starts with how we think and then we can grow to be rich. The mentality of the world class is different than those that are ordinary and therefore we must change our thought process before anything else. Personally I constantly apply the principles taught in this book to grow myself and my business and teach it to those I mentor.

Thanks to Fradel Barber, World Financial Group!

#13 – The Slight Edge

Image Credit: Bridgette Petrino

Life-changing book for entrepreneurs who aren’t seeing the progress they want: The absolute, must-read book for entrepreneurs who are frustrated with the progress of their business is The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olsen. Olsen teaches that consistently practicing good habits will exponentially add up over time. If you are working towards your goals every, single day, you will eventually see success. He argues that what sets successful people apart from unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do the seemingly little activities on a daily basis that make a difference over time. These are small, daily habits that are easy to do, but also easy not to do. And, this rule applies not only in business, but in all aspects of life. I am living proof. Less than two years ago I was out of shape and diagnosed with high cholesterol. When my doctor gave me the choice of either starting medication, or to start working out, I decided it was time to begin an exercise routine. By exercising only 15-30 minutes per day, for five days per week, I ended up in the best shape of my life, I lowered my cholesterol, and I became a fitness instructor. Working out for a few minutes a day is easy to do. But, it’s also easy not to do. Consistency is what gave me my slight edge. If you are looking for success, this book is a must read.

Thanks to Bridgette Petrino, Mommy Needs a Timeout!

#14 – #ASKGARYVEE

Image Credit: Brian Gill

I just bought #ASKGARYVEE by Gary Vaynerchuk. In the book, Gary definitely brings some current and practical advice to the table and there’s some value there for sure. He’s out there grinding and some of his takes are making me rethink a few of my habits. Gary is an entrepreneur who had the foresight to go beyond traditional methods and use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to reach an untapped audience that continues to grow. The book showcases the most useful and interesting questions that he has addressed on his podcast show. Definitely check it out!

Thanks to Brian Gill, Gillware Data Recovery!

#15 – Virtual Freedom

Image Credit: Stacy Tuschl

A book that I love is Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker. As an entrepreneur, we can get so overwhelmed by the day to day tasks and feel like we can’t get everything done. In the book, Virtual Freedom, Chris Ducker talks about using virtual assistants and how it can help take some of that overwhelm off of your plate. I have read it several times and now use it as a guide when I am in a growth stage and need to hire and outsource.

Thanks to Stacy Tuschl!

#16 – The Souls Code

Image Credit: Debora Balardini

The book that inspires me the most is The Souls Code by psychologist James Hillman. It has nothing to do with being an entrepreneur per se but rather it deals with the psychology behind what drives us, as human beings, to do what we do and to choose our paths. Some may say that we don’t choose but James Hillman says we are born with a code in our souls and it is up to us to uncoded and live the path. This book is an inspiration for me because when I decided to have my own business I was able to fill that code being revealed to me as much as I felt when choosing the path of being an artist as I did. And now Punto is an Event AND Performance space and, to me, that is the revelation of what my soul with some of the codes that were meant to be realized.

Thanks to Debora Balardini, PUNTO Space!

#17 – Smart People Should Build Things

Image Credit: Steve Benson

The book that I find most inspirational as a business owner is Smart People Should Build Things, by Andrew Yang. The premise of the book is that instead of going on the traditional path that successful students take – management consulting, finance, big companies, medicine, law, graduate school, etc, top students should start or join small businesses. I agree, and I don’t just believe that students coming out of college should start businesses, but I also believe that they will develop fastest and learn the most if they join businesses that have less than 50 people at them. I have hired many people fresh out of college into the small company that I run, Badger Maps, over the years, and I’ve been able to watch them develop so much faster than people who work in more traditional paths. They are able to take on so much more responsibility and get experiences that are far broader than they are able to take being a small cog in a big wheel. The traditional paths tend to make a bit more money the first few years out of school, but the investment in learning and leadership at this stage in a career, in my opinion, ends up being worth far more over time.

Thanks to Steve Benson, Badger Maps!

#18 – Let My People Go Surfing

Image Credit: Kate McCrea

As an entrepreneur, the book Let My People Go Surfing was inspiring. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard does an excellent job of explaining how he brought all of his employees into the culture he was creating at Patagonia. He trained everyone in the company on the values upon which he built the company. Patagonia expectations were built from his experience as a climber and his love for the world around him. By bringing his employees with him philosophically he created an atmosphere of inclusion where people could make decisions based on what they had learned from him. The time he took to work with his people was critical to the growth of Patagonia. The success of the company is a testament to his ability to maintain high standards for his products and high standards for his company. I found myself thinking hard about our own company and how we ensure continued care of our employees and high quality standards as our company grows. Documenting our guiding principles, making sure to communicate those principles to everyone at McCrea’s, and operating consistently throughout our organization are the three take-home messages from Let My People Go Surfing and, as obvious as they may sound, Yvon Chouinard makes the application of these practices attainable by telling his own story with humility. As a person who never expected to be an entrepreneur, it is helpful to read the story of a fellow business person who never saw himself as such until it was simply undeniable. His perspective is fresh and inspiring.

Thanks to Kate McCrea, McCrea’s Candies!

#19 – Get Rich Lucky Bitch

Image Credit: Kala Maxym

I have to say that Get Rich Lucky Bitch was eye-opening in many ways for me, not just professionally but personally as well. Get rich, lucky bitch opened my eyes to some preconceived notions I had about money, its worth, its value, and its place in my life, both personally and professionally. The exercises and stories in the book made me realize that there are circumstances in my past and ideas I have about my present self as an entrepreneur that are detrimental to my advancing powerfully and proudly as a successful woman business owner. Coming to terms with the fact that being successful does not equal being a bitch, that being successful does not mean you cannot be generous, or profoundly good, or consistently humble was a very important discovery for me, and has given me the strength to say no when something does not energetically align with my vision, and to ask firmly and unapologetically to be paid what I am worth.

Thanks to Kala Maxym, Five Senses Tastings!

#20 – Live from the Battlefield

Image Credit: Adam Wilson

I am generally inspired by the lives and stories of journalists who cover global hot zones. This account stands out as it also covers the making of CNN; the hardship, hard work and extraordinary timing and luck it took to get their big break. It’s easy to look at CNN these days and assume that it was the result of some spin off of some multinational corporation and that they were big from day one. But this is not the case. To follow their journey from small startup, who no one thought had any chance, to global news organization should give all beginning entrepreneurs hope and inspiration.”

Thanks to Adam Wilson, Hot Desk International!

#21 – The Alchemist

Image Credit: Shawn Schweier

The Alchemist by Paulo Coello You won’t find stories of YouTube marketing or how to win on Facebook ads, but you will find one of the most inspiring stories ever written. The book tells the tale of a young boy who envisions a treasure and then goes on a tireless journey of loss, disappointment, love, triumph, and ultimate success. The story covers some very key concepts in life and business such as staying persistent and finding your inner voice. The lesson of how the boy gets over the final challenge to reaching his destiny has been immeasurable to me and my business. Reading this book has enhanced how I see things as an entrepreneur and if I ever find myself in a difficult position, I remind myself of this boy’s journey to finding his treasure.

Thanks to Shawn Schweier, Alter Shift Limited!

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

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Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.
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