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27 Entrepreneurs List Their Favorite Inspirational Business Books

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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-Getting Things Done

Photo Credit: Russell Knight

The best book for business or anything really is Getting Things Done by David Allen. I have used his system every day for over 15 years and it always pays off. You have to organize your day, your work, your life. You need a system. David Allen lays it all out in his book. Getting Things Done means leaving the stress of life behind…and lets you start getting things done.

Thanks to Russell Knight, Law Office of Russell D. Knight!

#2-The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

Photo Credit: Shaan Patel

When I was first starting out with 2400 Expert, and then, Prep Expert, there’s a strong temptation to do everything yourself. No matter how much time it takes, do everything yourself. We all know that that is unrealistic to do, of course. Reading The 80/20 Principle really reaffirmed that what’s essential for me as CEO is to focus my time on the tasks that best suit my position and maximize our profit potential; staying on task with overall strategy is what I do best now.

Thanks to Shaan Patel, Prep Expert!

#3-Nicomachean Ethics

Photo Credit: Louis Swingrover

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics has profoundly impacted my business philosophy. Aristotle thinks of virtue as a kind of skill, and sees skills as abilities to achieve certain ends. Just like a “good knife” is one that achieves the end of cutting well, Aristotle says a “good person” is one that achieves the end of living well—of living an excellent life. The framework he develops helps me think about my role as an executive. Key to being a good businessperson is cultivating excellence at achieving the ends of performing a good service or creating a good product. But it also requires one to acquire and exercise the virtues of truthfulness, good-temperedness, and justice (among others). What’s more is that services and products just get exchanged for money, which is by its very nature only an instrument, not an end in itself. Reflecting on Aristotle’s perspective helps me evaluate my own work and the work of my employees: set meaningful business goals and judge the effectiveness of work by how well it advances or hinders those goals. Moreover, reflect on the ultimate ends that we truly believe in (What’s worth working for?), and assess the work according to how excellently it advances those ends. Doing business in a way that subverts human wellbeing is counterproductive. This creates a healthy feedback loop—if I and my staff believe our daily work contributes to something we truly believe in, we are far more likely to give it our all and be fulfilled in doing so.

Thanks to Louis Swingrover, 1031Gateway!

#4-The Power Of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

Photo Credit: Nate Masterson

So much of what makes businesses and business folks successful has to do with the good – or bad – habits that they’ve ingrained in themselves over the course of a career and lifetime. Duhigg’s The Power Of Habit helps readers get an understanding for the
power of habits, as well as offers actionable tips on how to break bad habits and build good ones. It is the rare book that has the power to drive a business and a career forward – and a necessary read for the motivated individual struggling to achieve his or her goals.

Thanks to Nate Masterson, Maple Holistics!

#5-Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

Photo Credit: Rick Parmar

My favourite business book is Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. This was my first ever business book I read during my University years in London.. A book that everyone from a low-income family can relate to where low-income mindsets are heavily present. The book tells the story of how the author’s Poor Dad (highly educated) viewed and utilised money and how his friend’s Rich Dad (school dropout) viewed and utilised money and both of their resulting outcomes – Poor Dad stayed poor and Rich Dad grew richer. The book helped me understand how to view money and how to use it for maximum impact.. The book definitely raised my financial intelligence, touching on the benefits of real estate investment, the pros of starting a business and the cons of the typical 9-5 concept where people sell their time for money. I’d recommend this book as a good starting point if you’re interested in business, it will definitely open your mind and increase your financial intelligence going forward.

Thanks to Rick Parmar, Disturb Digital LTD!

#6- Shoe Dog

Photo Credit: Sandi Lin

Shoe Dog, written by Phil Knight (the founder of Nike), is written with incredible honesty and humility. It helped me realize that startups need extraordinary luck to succeed. Hard work isn’t enough, although it does help create more opportunities for luck. I also appreciated hearing about the ups and downs of Nike’s history and how the team continued to persevere. Startups are a roller coaster and as a CEO, it’s critical to have the right people around you to celebrate the wins and learn through the losses.

Thanks to Sandi Lin, Skilljar!

#7- Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

Photo Credit: Eric Yohay

There is one book that jumps out and its called, Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. This book literally has changed the game for our company and we require every new person to read the book within their first 30 days. As an added bonus we have everyone sign the back cover and write the date they finished it. Its a great team building tool and helps give at least one deep anchor across the board. It really shows everyone how we think about the art of sales.

Thanks to Eric Yohay, Salesflow!

#8- A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World

Photo Credit: Antoine Paré

A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World is a breath of fresh air as a “business” book. It’s very rare to read any book really that’s as transparent and honest as this one. He doesn’t shy away from openly admitting his mistakes, which makes this one of the most helpful and actionable books I’ve read in a while. His writing style is both incredibly easy to read as well as exceedingly in-depth in terms of including tangible examples. As a fellow entrepreneur, it was great to be able to follow along in his story and identify with the phases of his business as he explained them. Seeing him describe the pains that came with venture capital investors, the entire pitching process that goes with it, the stress… it really just drove home our choice NOT to go with venture capital funding and instead to  bootstrap our entire business. From a personal standpoint, I really identified with the fact that he began, and succeeded, far outside of the incubator that is Silicon Valley, just like us. His insights really validated some of our choices, and made us doubt others. And really, forcing you to ask yourself questions, as well as comfort you in others you already made… those are two of the most generous lessons that one entrepreneur can give to another.

Thanks to Antoine Paré, DashThis!

#9-Profit First

Photo Credit: Brian Edmondson

Currently, my favorite business book Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. Once an entrepreneur or business owner starts making money in their business, the next question is what exactly should they do with it? This is a tougher skill to master than many people think and it’s easy to have a business that makes a lot of money, but is a major cash eating machine. Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine gives you a simple to follow framework that turns  traditional accounting principles on their head and lets you get into real profit fast and control your business in a way that you may never have thought possible. A book on handling money may sound boring, but this is far more than a money management book and it can help give you true freedom in your business.

Thanks to Brian Edmondson, Internet Income Coach!

#10-#ASKGARYVEE

Photo Credit: Brian Lim

I just finished reading #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 Lim, iHeartRaves!

#11-Good to Great

Photo Credit: Lindsay Lutz

If you are looking for a good business read check out Good to Great by Jim Collins. He documents how companies go from being good to great and why some companies are unable to make the leap. I find the most interesting part of the book is Collins’ Hedgehog Concept which asks you to identify as a business 1) What can you be the best at, 2) What drives your economic engine, and 3) What are you deeply passionate about. My organization has found this exercise to be extremely helpful in centering us all and keeping us focused on our mission.

Thanks to Lindsay Lutz, TenantBase!

#11-Get Rich Click! The Ultimate Guide to Making Money on the Internet

Photo Credit: Ian Aronovich

A great, must-read business tech book is Get Rich Click! The Ultimate Guide to Making Money on the Internet by Marc Ostrofsky. Ostrofsky is an investor who has fine-tuned the art of Internet domain investing; he lives and breathes his craft. After reading this book, our perspective on marketing our business has drastically changed for the better. Even as the Internet and technology continue to evolve year after year, the fundamental lessons, proven business strategies and techniques found in this book still serve as inspiration and motivation for us in our day-to-day business activities. I have read this book at least twice, and some of our workers and interns have followed my footsteps and have read this great book cover to cover. This book shows anyone how to jump into the mix early on and capitalize on an idea. After reading a book like this, your perspective on your business or potential business will drastically change for the better.

Thanks to Ian Aronovich, GovernmentAuctions.org!

#12-The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napolentano

Photo Credit: Michael Beiler

The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napolentano has been one of my most empowering reads yet. In the book, she makes a point to address that it is not the size/ popularity of your brand, but finding the niche market that it can thrive in. For my business as an example, the majority of the population will not need cattle feeders or farming equipment. But, here in Lancaster County where agriculture is huge, so is the need. Napolentano is what I would recommend to anyone with a business in a unique market in need of some motivation!

Thanks to Michael Beiler, Farmco Manufacturing!

#13-The path of no resistance – Garret Kramer

Photo Credit: Beau Hodson

This book opened my eyes to illuminate a beautiful truth. That my feelings, especially related to my business, are not predicated on external circumstance, regardless of much it looks that way. But rather, my feelings are directly related to what is inside, ie. my perception and the personal thinking I have in the moment.

Thanks to Beau Hodson, Transparent Mortgage!

#14- Two books

Photo Credit: Chef Chris Martin

Every successful entrepreneur will tell you reading is paramount to success. Its your link to a mentor that you may not have a means to learn from directly either due to proximity or perhaps they’re no longer with us. Because of this I’m always seeking a new business or self-development book. The most recent discovery I’ve made: Good To Great by Jim Collins. A follow-up to Built to Last. Interestingly, as stated in the book; in hindsight it feels more like they reverse-engineered the process to building a sustaining company. By suggestion of Jim Collins himself: Start with Good to Great then read Built to Last. These two books in combination should give you the broad strokes to cover what it takes to recruit the right people and build the systems to grow momentum. BONUS: Check out Principles by Ray Dalio.

Thanks to Chef Chris Martin, Digest The Passion!

#15- Eat that Frog by Bryan Tracy

Photo Credit: Ross Davies

No matter what you do, you’ll be familiar with the feeling that there isn’t enough time in the day! However, the secret to success isn’t furiously working to clear your entire to-do list – it’s learning to focus on the most important tasks, and doing them well.  Enter *Eat that Frog*, an indispensable guide to improving your own efficiency. It might seem like a strange recommendation, but years running my own business have taught me that efficiency and productivity are the mothers of success. *Eat that Frog* lists 21 different ways to help improve your productivity, and while some of them might seem “obvious” at  first glance, you’d be surprised just how much you work against yourself on a day-to-day basis. Being good at what you do is important, but it ’s efficiency that can truly revolutionize your approach to your work.

Thanks to Ross Davies, Strafe Creative!

#16-Mind Hacking

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

I really enjoyed Mind Hacking: How to Change Your Mind for Good in 21 Days by Sir John Hargrave. The book places a focus on the changes one can make in their mind, specifically within a 21 day timespan, by replacing negative thoughts, habits, and feelings of anxiety with positive ones.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com!

#17-The 10X Rule

Photo Credit: Tomas Keenan

In April of 2014 my first daughter was born.  Right around that time I decided that a change was needed and so I began my journey on personal development for myself and my business.  A few months into this journey a friend recommended that I read “The 10X Rule” by Grant Cardone.  I have read roughly fifty books since then and for some reason I keep going back to “The 10X Rule”.  Every time I feel down, unproductive or just need a swift kick in the ass I pick up this book or turn on the audio version.  It has inspired me to take action with powerful statements such as “the time is NOW” and to hold myself 100% accountable to everything that happens to me in life.  As Grant Cardone goes into deep detail, and I quote, “nothing happens to you, it happens because of you”.  Honestly, Grant Cardone is not for everyone.  He’s in your face and keeps it real.  If you can’t handle that, maybe look elsewhere.  But if you are up for real-world insight from one of today’s most successful CEO’s and entrepreneurs, please read this book.  Hopefully, It will change your life as it did mine.

Thanks to Tomas Keenan, Top Class Installations!

#18-Extreme Ownership

Photo Credit: Joe Giovannoli

Reading is key aspect of my role as CEO. Whether it is a blog, industry white paper, or book, I spend a large amount of time reading and learning. One book that has left an impact on me personally, professionally, and has changed my business is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Extreme Ownership speaks to everything I believe in; taking responsibility, or *ownership*, over everything you do personally and professionally. I have used pages from this book to better lead my team and to identify what went wrong and why in order to learn from my shortcomings so they do not happen again.

Thanks to Joe Giovannoli, 9Sail!

#19-Power of Broke

Photo Credit: Kabrea Thomas

At the moment I’d have to say one of my favorite business books would have to be ‘Power of Broke by Daymond John. I enjoyed reading this book because he demonstrates how he literally hustled every single day to get FUBU known. His hustle inspired me, and showed me that there is power in being broke because you’re forced to think outside the box because you lack the ‘financial’ resources.

Thanks to Kabrea Thomas, Fashionably Yours!

#20-Think and Grow Rich

Photo Credit: Jitesh Keswani

One of the books which are on my MUST READ list is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napolean Hill. The book advocates that one can push faith, aspirations and determination to a great extent by subduing denial thoughts and aiming for long-term goals. The interesting part of the book I felt is, it categorized the attributes of life in parts, who are responsible to achieve success in any area. I like books which are based on or backed by research and study. While this book is based on studying the habits of people who assembled richness in plenty.

Thanks to Jitesh Keswani, e-intelligence!

#21-The Barcelona Way: Unlocking the DNA of a Winning Culture by Damian Hughes

Photo Credit: Alistair Clay

The Barcelona Way explains the DNA of a ‘commitment based’ business model where culture, image and vision flow from a shared focus and sense of responsibility. I love the fact that although the case study here is of one of the world’s most successful football teams the learnings can be applied to any business environment. If you want to not only win, but keep winning, and in the right manner, then this book has some valuable wisdom. A must-read for anyone who has recognized that long-term success can only EVER be derived from a strong culture.

Thanks to Alistair Clay, Class: PR!

#22-When Machines Do Everything- Malcom Frank

Photo Credit: Daniel Summers

When Machines Do Everything is an unbelievably easy read about the history of technology and the influence of Artificial Intelligence currently. It also provides great insight into what to expect and how it will influence us in the near future. Most people do not understand the current existence and power of AI as it applies in today’s world but it’s applied in our everyday lifestyle unbeknownst to us. It taught me that we live in a digital world and economy. It’s here and now, so we have to embrace it in business or lose out.

Thanks to Daniel Summers, eVest Technology!

#23-The Founder’s Mentality, Chris Zook and James Allen

Photo Credit: Stephen Wunker

Zook and Allen have consulted to a huge range of companies over their long careers at Bain & Company. They demonstrate in rich detail how small companies often can beat larger ones through their culture and an obsession with what happens on the front lines. – Stephen Wunker, Managing Director, New Markets Advisors

Thanks to  Stephen Wunker, New Markets Advisors!

#24-Zero To One by Peter Thiel

Photo Credit: Theo J Ellis

What makes this book different is it’s more of an exercise on critical thinking, innovation, marketing and *how you approach business *in terms of mindset. Instead of a plain how to book with a list of what you should do. In that way, *Zero To One *is applicable to anyone who’s already in business, or plans to start one. It’s too important for me to not recommend it.

Thanks to Theo J Ellis, Anime Motivation!

#25-Words that Sell

Photo Credit: Nadzrul Hanif

If there is a book that I would buy another copy just to frame it, or have it preserved by having it frozen, buried in the ground or whatever so another entrepreneur could retrieve it in 1000 years from now, that book would be Words that Sell by Richard Bayan. Basically it is a reference, or kind of like a Thesaurus for business owners. It’s very helpful especially when writing sales copies but it is also very helpful to improve your communication skills when it comes to just about anything including business negotiations. As a sales person, you need to know how to talk. If you don’t know how to talk; you have to at least know how to type. But the principle is the same: Your words make the sales. Regardless of what the medium is. A crappy video but with amazing script tempting its viewers to buy a product is actually really great video advertisement. A website without text content wouldn’t rank easily on Search Engine. Words are omnipotent.

Thanks to Nadzrul Hanif, Mindtrick Photography!

#26-Ray Dalio – Principles

This book by the founder of US’s biggest hedge fund goes through Dalio’s work and life principles that he says allowed him to be successful. The reason why I think this is the best business book is that if you get a guide to something (say SEO, influencer marketing etc) then by a year or so after publishing it’s outdated and much less useful. Instead, Dalio lays out his work and life principles that gave him the proper mindset required for success. His policies of radical openness, transparency and a meritocratic work environment is something which I wish every organization I work at in the future will adopt. He also includes handy worksheets so you can practice what he’s teaching you straight away. This book is one of those that will stick with you, and I’m looking forward to rereading it again in the future.

Thanks to Joseph Coulburn, Better Nutritional Science!

#27-Work Rules

Photo Credit: Carlos Castelán

My favorite business book is Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock. One of the biggest challenges companies face relates to the hiring and retention of employees. The pace of technological advancements has accelerated change in all industries and companies that succeed in adapting and growing have a common theme: engagement and retention of top talent. Work Rules! provides fascinating insights that show how the company succeeded in building perhaps the world’s greatest collection of talent. From identifying a philosophy, important hiring practices, and engagement of talented individuals through goal alignment, Bock provides great detail relating to how companies can re-think an often-overlooked function like HR that’s critical to a company’s success. The book is a must-read for leaders that seek to create lasting change by building high-performing teams.

Thanks to Carlos Castelán, The Navio Group!

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

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