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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 Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

Photo Credit: Ajay Yadav

My favorite business book is “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz. It’s very real. I like how he actually revealed the real challenges he went through when he built his business and how he fixed them. A lot of people think running a business is fun and exciting but that’s the external image of the company. But behind the scenes can be very raw – a business owner has to work really hard everyday to solve real world problems. This book helps bring entrepreneurs back to reality and realize building a business is not easy but you can do it.”

Thanks to Ajay Yadav, Roomi!

#2- Webs of Influence – The Psychology of Online Persuasion

Photo Credit: Richard Howe

My favourite business book is Webs of Influence – The Psychology of Online Persuasion by Nathalie Nahai. With high competition in every industry online, customer conversion is of huge importance. Webs of Influence is a really easy read that looks at user behaviour, and how you can use persuasive techniques to really start making your visitors take action.

Thanks to Richard Howe, Colour Rich!

#3- How to win friends and influence people

Photo Credit: Alexandra Isenegger

Not just a business book, but ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale  Carnegie teaches valuable skills on communicating with people.

Thanks to Alexandra Isenegger, Linkilaw!

#4- One Up On Wall Street

Photo Credit: Anurag Bhatia

My favourite business book is ‘One Up On Wall Street' by Peter Lynch. It is simply a must-have for anyone who is even remotely interested in investing in the stock markets. What I love about the book is its simplicity and honesty; there is no sense of elitism or ‘I know more than you, so listen' attitude in how Peter Lynch writes and that is why the book is good! It is filled with common sense and how with the proper research and hard work, anyone can succeed in the market. I got interested in the stock markets when I was a teen and without ‘One Up On Wall Street', I don't think I would have become what I am today.

Thanks to Anurag Bhatia, Minance!

#5- Good To Great

Photo Credit: Travis Biggert

This is a classic book and yet it's premise is still as viable as ever. In it, Jim Collins explains the results of his five year project of identifying why certain companies become great where their peers remained simply good companies. In it, he describes why companies like Abbott Laboratories produced returns 4 times the market and over 5 times their competition, and why companies like Walgreens resisted knee jerk reactions and focuses on their strategy, which leads to them beating the general stock market by 15 times between 1976 and 2000. It gives amazing insights that are as practicable and applicable now as they were 10 years ago. A must read for any true leader.

Thanks to Travis Biggert, HUB International Mid America!

#6- Managing to Make a Difference

Photo Credit: Kimberly Rath

My number one business book is ‘Managing to Make a Difference' written by two of my colleagues, Larry Sternberg and Kim Turnage. This book is based solid research as well as decades of management experience. It is intended to be handbook for middle managers and offers a roadmap to engagement, talent development and excellence in management. I gain a great deal of insight from Larry and Kim and the real-life stories they share. The techniques they offer in their book will help middle managers achieve organizational goals and will empower their employees to achieve their own. I'm particularly excited that I've been hearing from people with whom I've shared the book, and they've remarked at how they are putting the techniques to work in their approach with their team members.

Thanks to Kimberly Rath, Talent Plus, Inc!

#7- Ownership Thinking: How to End Entitlement and Create a Culture of Accountability, Purpose, and Profit

Photo Credit: Rachel Betterbid

I love this book by Brad Hams  because it discusses very tangible, realistic ways to  improve your businesses processes, efficiencies, and ways to get buy in from your whole company on bettering your business. Essentially, it talks about ways to get everyone in your company thinking like an owner.

Thanks to Rachel Betterbid, Coalmarch Productions!

#8- Blue Ocean Strategy

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

My favorite book right now is Blue Ocean Strategy By: W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne. The reason is two-fold. It is meaningful personally because it was given to me by a partner who has a vision of expanding our partnership and undertaking a Blue Ocean Strategy. It is also a valuable resource in how to think bigger and think differently in business. It's not about comparing yourself to the competition, but rather about creating and thinking differently in a manner that creates new, open space that did not previously exist. The book presents the notion of thinking broader and differentiating and to me, this is extremely valuable.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation!

#9- The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It

Photo Credit: Adham Sbeih

I have probably read close to a hundred different business books, and my favorite is still one of the first I read, The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, by Michael Gerber. It is a simple book with a simple premise, but I find myself thinking about it often. It is  important as a small business owner to create processes and systems that allow your team members to perform with consistency and precision. This is good for your clients as well as your staff.

Thanks to Adham Sbeih, Socotra Capital!

#10- Don't Make Me Think

Photo Credit: Phyllis Zimbler Miller

My favorite business book is Steve Krug's DON'T MAKE ME THINK. Although it is primarily about website ease of use, the book title's motto works for so many other areas of business. My personal business motto is “Make it as easy as possible for your targeted audiences to say yes to you” and Krug’s book does a deep dive on this sentiment.

 Thanks to Phyllis Zimbler Miller, Miller Mosaic!

#11-  Shoe Dog, the story of how Phil Knight started Nike

Photo Credit: Jason Patel

My favorite business book is Shoe Dog, the story of how Phil Knight started Nike. It's an outstanding book because it presents an honest account of the humble beginnings of an iconic American company. Knight's rise to the top was fraught with hardship and struggle: He had his heart broken, a former factory of his threatened to steal his product, he sold shoes from his car trunk, larger shoe companies tried to abuse a customs law to put Nike out of business, and a business partner of his died. Throughout all this, Knight kept his eyes on the prize and eventually succeeded. The book doesn't pull any punches, and he's very honest about himself and the people who helped make Nike what it is today.

Thanks to Jason Patel, Transizion!

#12- Startup's Owners Manual

Photo Credit: Gene Caballero

The book that changed my perspective on starting a business is The Startup's Owners Manual, by Steve Blanks. For me, Steve laid out for me all of the pre-work that was needed to be done before a company should even be started. From getting out of the building and getting feedback from random strangers to being on top of your company and not in it, Steve takes real-world examples and explains everything in detail. He gave me the confidence and the reasoning to get that ball rolling on becoming an entrepreneur.

Thanks to Gene Caballero, GreenPal!

#13- Drive

Photo Credit: Jamie Thomas

Drive by Daniel Pink is very thought-provoking and states the simplest of principles for motivating and retaining employees, based on their intrinsic motivations and goals. simply put people strive for autonomy, mastery and purpose- most notably, especially over their pay scale. the book's principles are based on facts and successes/ failures of business models and i utilize these concepts in running the nonprofit, motley zoo animal rescue, and it has proven quite successful.

Thanks to Jamie Thomas, Motley Zoo Animal Rescue!

#14- Profit First

Photo Credit: Jeff Gapinski

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz has probably had the biggest impact on my business to date. It really changed my outlook on how we've been operating and revealed some hard truths. The plan this book implores you to execute is both simple and common sense, but often something we as business owners overlook once we start scaling. I'd consider it a must read.

Thanks to Jeff Gapinski, Huemor Designs!

#15- Think and Grow Rich

Photo Credit: Craig Smith

The book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is without question a must read for any entrepreneur or senior executive. Written in the early 1900's, this book is a collection of stories, quotes, and philosophies of some of the largest business titans at the turn of the century. The author spent years interviewing numerous business trailblazers like Andrew Carnegie, the leaders who built America as a economic power, and does a terrific job at relaying the management perspectives and business methodologies that drove their success. Due to the nature of the book and the fact that I have it on audio, I listen at least once a year to sharpen the saw and reinforce the principles that hold true almost 100 years later.

Thanks to Craig Smith, Trinity Insight!

#16-Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration–and Make Work Exciting Again

Photo Credit: Chip Bell

Scott Mautz's *Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration–and Make Work Exciting Again is far more than a written pep talk; it’s a powerful, poignant, and practical instruction manual that will teach you how to rekindle passion in your life. Crafted in
a style that matches the theme, be prepared for a roller-coaster ride that races you through the full range of your emotions to your rational brain and back again.

Thanks to Chip Bell

#17- Rich Dad Poor Dad

Photo Credit: Caleb Backe

It took me a while to single out one book that I really liked or would consider my favorite yet after much deliberation, the answer was quite clear. It’s the book that I’ve re-read and recommended the most over time: Rich Dad Poor Dad. A NYT Bestseller, the book opened my mind to the possibilities of business and allowed me break-down many of the fears or anxieties that were holding me back. I’ve kept it with me like a Bible ever since and can honestly say that this book should be taught at high-school levels. It really helps to give young people hope that just because they weren’t born wealthy, doesn’t mean that they cannot still become successful.

Thanks to Caleb Backe, Maple Holistics!

#18- Career Killers Career Builders

Photo Credit: John Crossman

Career Killers Career Builders is my favorite business book. One reason is that I wrote it. The other reason is that many of the topics discussed in it are seldom brought up in a business environment. Mental health and addiction are topics that we must start dealing with in the business community.

Thanks to John Crossman,  Crossman & Company!

#19- Teach You To Be Rich

Photo Credit: Jim Wang

The book by Ramit Sethi covers basic personal finance topics in an engaging way (you will not fall asleep) and it will set your money on a path to success through automation. It helped me get my financial house in order so I could focus on business and NOT waste time on mundane matters.

Thanks to Jim Wang, Wallet Hacks!

#20- Leadership and Self Deception – Getting Out of the Box

Photo Credit: Kerry Wekelo

My favorite business book is *Leadership and Self Deception – Getting Out of the Box *by The Arbinger Institute. The reason why this is my favorite book is because it uses a powerful case study of the importance of taking accountability for your actions in all situations. This was the first book I used to start changing our culture at Actualize Consulting.

Thanks to Kerry Wekelo, Actualize Consulting!


#21- The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

Photo Credit: Adam Gore

When I was initially thinking of starting my own business, it was The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. It was the first book I read that opened my eyes to a life of limitless possibilities, success and satisfaction that anyone can achieve. It explained simple tools and steps that gave me the knowledge and confidence to succeed in starting and growing my own business. It also gave me the confidence to take on 100% of the business debt for 100% ownership when the other 3 founders decided to leave the business after 2 years, and it leads the my desire to grow to be bigger than Amazon! Although we aren't quite as big as Amazon (yet!), this year we are forecasting to turnover £15m and employ 58 people- which isn't bad considering we started in a spare bedroom with a £6k loan from the bank.

Thanks to Adam Gore, Find Me a Gift!

Which is your favorite business book? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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