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 Richest Man In Babylon, George Samuel Clason
I first read this book as a teenager and many more times since then. I was in fourth grade when I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur. At that point I didn’t have any foundation or knowledge of what it would actually take. The books simplistic core principles of money management made it easy for me to follow at a young age. Following those principles allowed me to pay for my own college tuition, start my own business and now transitioning into its last principle of increasing my ability to earn. It doesn't matter at what point anyone is in their life this book can have a positive affect on you.
Thanks to Ricky Nila, Lending Attic
#2 – Start with Why, Simon Sinek
Start with Why is a simple but incredibly powerful book that urges readers to identify the core set of beliefs that motivate their work. In it, leadership speaker Simon Sinek argues that the most successful business aren't those that have the best ideas, the most resources, or the most talented people — rather, they are those whose founders have a sincere and deep-seated beliefs that drive and inspire the business to succeed. For entrepreneurs, the book serves as a compelling call to action; it urges readers to identify their why — the reason they want to work for or build a company — before worrying about anything else. I started my company, Deskbright — an online learning platform dedicated to empowering employees and entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed professionally — as a direct result of reading Sinek's book: I realized that the core motivation for my desire to start a business was the sincere belief that everybody deserves to thrive at work.
Thanks to Sam McIntire, Deskbright
#3 – Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
The book that most inspires me most as an Entrepreneur is Napoleon Hill's masterpiece, Think and Grow Rich. This book is not an easy read and I imagine that millions of people have either not completed the book or have not applied the knowledge in the book. Those who have will have quite a story to tell. TAGR is a book that is meant to be studied and read with a Mastermind Group. I have been studying the book for over ten years. I am a recovering attorney who started my business in 2005. In applying the 13 principles of success outlined in TAGR, I surpassed $1Mil in revenues within three years of opening the business (a professional services Business and Executive Coaching Firm). Those numbers had me rank among the top coaches in the world. I owe my success to the study and application of Hill's philosophy of personal achievement that he organized after spending nearly 25 years interviewing the 500 most successful people of his time. The book is timeless. It is a must read/apply book for every entrepreneur.
Thanks to Heather Christie, Evolve Global
#4 – The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss
In high school I was working as a junior mailman. I had lots of time to listen to audiobooks. I think I listened to The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss at least six times from start to end. This book taught me concepts like geoarbitrage and delegating menial tasks that are not part of my core competencies. I listened to this book at a point in time when I was really doubtful about the digital nomad lifestyle. I was doubting between enrolling in a master’s degree in Rotterdam, The Netherlands or hitting the road for a year while growing my SEO agency at the same time. This book made me opt for the latter. Fast forward to 2016: I have worked and lived in 10 countries over the last two years. I have grown my SEO agency from 3 regular clients to 10 long-term campaigns. I am more happy than ever. At the moment I am typing this from a resort in Cebu, Philippines, sipping a sweet mango shake. Thanks to The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, I have escaped the 9 to 5 and enjoy the freedom a location independent business can provide.
Thanks to Romano Groenewoud, SEOgeek
#5 – Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm, Verne Harnish
Needless to say, there are many books on the market that has inspired and continues to inspire me as an entrepreneur and business owner. With that said, one of my favorite books is titled, “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm.” The principles that are suggested in this book are translatable to any size business. There are management tools that are suggested that can be easily implemented which will create clarity and focus throughout your organization. This book truly packs intellectual firepower that will pay dividends for years to come.
Thanks to MJ Pedone, Indra Public Relations
#6 – Setting the Table, Danny Meyer
I love reading books by entrepreneurs in industries outside of my own because I get a fresh perspective on running a business and learn things that I wouldn't have otherwise learned had I been reading wedding books all day. For that reason, the book that inspires me the most as an entrepreneur is Danny Meyer's *Setting the Table*. His take on hospitality and how crucial that idea is to any business is incredibly motivating. Also his attention to detail and ability to take those details and in turn connect people is something that I strive for with Color Pop Events. I know people who have worked for his company, Union Square Hospitality, and rave about their experience there, so it's nice to know that he's not just all talk.
Thanks to Leah Weinberg, Color Pop Events
#7 – Timon of Athens, William Shakespeare
I know that this isn't a normal choice, but I'm going to say Timon of Athens, by Shakespeare. It's about a man who loses his family fortune. Timon of Athens liked to party: he spent is money frivolously, giving away jewels at lavish dinner parties with sumptuous dishes. Of course, people always came to his parties, and always said they loved him, but when the money ran out, they left him living in a crevasse between two rocks. The thing is, what separates the people who are working for me from the hangers-on that Timon gave money to? Value. My employees are actually giving me back more than I'm giving them (hopefully: that's the reason we make a profit), whereas Timon's dinner guests just took and never gave. As an employer, I have to be very careful to respect the people who work for me and the value they give to me, because without them, I'll just end up between two rocks.
Thanks to Duke York, PUNTO Space
#8 – Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!
As an entrepreneur, one of the most impactful books I have read is Greg Crabtree's Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!, and one I recommend and hand out regularly to business owners that I work with on a daily basis. Truly understanding the financial health of one's company is imperative for creating a foundation for a successful business (no matter the size), but not something that is emphatically done by most business owners. And not only is understanding the key financial metrics crucial, but so is tracking and monitoring on a regular basis. Mr. Crabtree does a great job at simply outlining the financial metrics/levers that every business owner should be aware of and the tremendous impact they can have on your business. He points out the power of profit – profit being the greatest driver of cash flow. And with cash flow comes opportunity, options and the freedom to make decisions.
Thanks to Brendan Anderson, Evolution Capital Partners LLC
#9 – Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?, Reginald Lewis
I have read many business and self improvement books but one that I read periodically to remind me of my first impression of I can do it is Reginald Lewis', Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? Being in a white and male dominated field, I needed to know what I didn't know. While this was about the largest merger acquisition of its time for an African American, for me, it was about doing what most didn't understand what you were doing and why you were doing it. Those that did understand what you did, doubted you could do it at all because they didn't know anyone who did it. So I read it, then re-read it and took notes, and then read it once a year for the first 5 years of my business. I figure if he could make his dream come true, I could make mine come true too!
Thanks to L. Denise Jackson, LDJ Solutions, LLC
#10 – The Success Principles, Jack Canfield
The book that inspires me most as a business owner and entrepreneur is The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. In it, he goes over all of the lessons he’s learned from other successful business owners and gives helpful, relevant homework to drive all of the points home. I’ve gone through the book three times now and each time, find new things to focus on. He discusses everything from limiting beliefs to the people you hang out with to the importance of having goals and a vision. It’s an inspiring read and all entrepreneurs, no matter what stage they are in their business, will find something of value in ‘The Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield.
Thanks to Anne-Marie Faiola, Bramble Berry Inc.
#11 – Rich Dad Poor Dad, Richard Kiyosaki
For me, great motivational books act as mental stepping stones that allow me to bridge the gap between where I am now, and where I want to be. I can narrow my selection down to two of the most influential books for me. The first is Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Richard Kiyosaki; this book really helped to change my mentality on how to put your money and assets to work for you. The second is the 4 Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss. Tims book take many lessons learned in Rich Dad Poor Dad and expounds on them greatly, teaching you how to remove yourself from the day-to-day operations of your business, and empower your employees to continue your vision. There are many other great books that can help provide a path, but I think these are two that are essential to every entrepreneur.
Thanks to Skyler Lanning, Wildwood Adventures
#12 – Oh, the Places You'll Go!, Dr. Seuss
If I really think back to what inspired me as an entrepreneur its Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr Seuss. My aunt who was a successful career woman gave it to me as my high school graduation gift and it really inspired me to dream big and chase things I never thought were possible (like owning my own companies). The book continues to be a persistent part of my life – we included it in our wedding ceremony, have artwork of it in our home and I now give that as a gift to everyone of my nieces and nephews. Such a simple message of inspiration, but some of the greatest books we find in childhood 🙂
Thanks to Jessica Fialkovich, Transworld Business Advisors of Denver
#13 – John Berger, Ways of Seeing
Before Attending design school I was instructed to read John Berger's Ways of Seeing. While my father, privy to my interest in fashion, had bought me this book as a gift some years before, it had sat on my shelf until otherwise prodded off. What really entranced my 18 year old self in Ways of Seeing was not the way it dealt with daunting ideas through colloquial jargon. Nor was it the fascinatingly dated examples Berger used to manifest his concepts (though these absolutely entertained my birthmark of 70's romanticism).. It was the truly psychological aspects art, design, advertising-the copyrighted world enveloping us-that floored me. Initially I was a bit confused, if not disheartened, by the book. While subconsciously aware of all these aspects at play, I had never unpacked the inherent manipulative potential of all I had come to identify with so closely-color, shape, texture. In hind sight it was a pretty baddass move of Central Saint Martins to assign this as summer reading before we showed up fresh and green for foundation year. A thinly veiled method of weeding out those that either couldn't grapple with the possible weight of what they might create, those that couldn't understand the power they might harness, or those who simply wanted to create beauty for beauty's sake. These concepts have proved unshakable for me since, and have come to live permanently in the back of my mind. Through defining the inextricable link between what one is driven to create and how/why it will then exist in the world Ways of Seeing has, and will continue to, quietly impact the entirety of my work.
Thanks to Amalya Meira
#14 – The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz
Often these days, I find myself looking to books for experiential advice more so than ever before. As background, I am in the middle of my third year running my first startup. The new and shiny aspects of startup living have become slightly less new and slightly less shiny. This doesn’t mean I lack enthusiasm or excitement; instead, I have come to the realization that this is actually now just part of my life. And as such, I want to get better and better in my role and how I integrate my role into my life. With that, cue Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” This book, quite simply, adds a little perspective to your day-to-day. As the author notes, too many startup books are about success; but what about the challenges? And how can you actually enjoy those challenges on a daily basis. For those looking for a good read, some inspiration, and a little commiseration, I suggest Horowitz’s book (and a couple beers to go along with it).
Thanks to Adam Segal, Cove
#15 – How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
I absolutely love this question. Best book hands down for any entrepreneur is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. In a simplistic, easy to read, and relatable anecdotes , Carnegie shows how anyone can become influential in business meetings or negotiations. This is not about mind manipulation, it is about positive influence and obtaining what you need to become successful. Carnegie get's into the psychology of people, our inner wants, desires, and needs. If you want to be successful at business — *listen* to Carnegie's advice. According to Carnegie, listening is one of the most powerful tools to a successful influencer.
Thanks to Vicky Llerena, Social Vibes Media