22 Entrepreneurs List Their Favorite Inspirational Business Books

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- Good to Great by Jim Collins

Photo Credit: Jeff Hoeppner

In his book, Jim outlines a number of incredible concepts based on years of research he and his team conducted. They thoughtfully outline concepts ranging from leadership to discipline. For my business the greatest revelation was the hedgehog concept. After understanding how wildly successful businesses pruned their organization to shed underperforming divisions and leapt far ahead, it made my stop and really look at my business. We are a very small business, however this principal applies to organizations of any size. We took a long hard look at ourselves and diagnosed who we really are to our clients. We stopped trying to be something we weren’t, and really leaned into this idea. It’s helped us to not only grow our business, it’s helped us focus which has really been the key. We have become better at what we do, which has added more value to our clients and we’ve now helped them grow their businesses. I tell many of my clients that if they’re only ever going to read one business book, it should be Good to Great.

Thanks to Jeff Hoeppner, Helium Group!

#2-The Way of the Shepherd

Photo Credit: Nikki Carlson and
Kailynn Bowling

Seven Secrets to Managing Productive People by Dr Kevin Leman and Bill Pentak. In 2017, ChicExecs was voted one of the top company cultures in America. The principles shared in this book align with our vision for our company and showcase deeper principles rather than focusing on flavor of the month management techniques. It emphasizes how to lead your team so they view their work as a calling not just a job and a place to belong rather than just a place to work. It's a quick read packed with timeless truths.

Thanks to Nikki Carlson and Kailynn Bowling, Chic Execs!

#3-The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

Photo Credit: Natalie Athanasiadis

The Tipping Point is about how little things can make a big difference in your business. It outlines 3 agents of change you can use to catapult your business to achieve its growth goals. There are practical marketing concepts you can apply to your business whether you have marketing experience or not. This is a great one for CEO's looking to make a big impact in the market.

Thanks to Natalie Athanasiadis, Ormi Media!

#4- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth.

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

In this book, Duckworth argues that the key to success is not in talent but in identifying your passions and following through on commitments that ultimately fuel our achievements. There's also a lot of incredible insight into learning from failures and how to avoid overreacting to setbacks that I think every entrepreneur will find relatable.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney,!

#5- The Alchemist

Photo Credit: Gresham Harkless

One of my absolute favorite books. It’s a book that focuses on the journey of life and sometimes we even feel as entrepreneurs and business owners when we take a leap of faith. Often, we have to go through ups and downs before we reach success and that’s the case with the book. I first heard of the book when I was watching a motivational video with Tavis Smiley interviewing Will Smith. It was definitely a game-changer.

Thanks to Gresham Harkless, Blue 16 Media!

6-Carnegie’s Classic

Photo Credit: Shaun Savage

Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is just as relevant and insightful today as when it was first published in 1936. For a new entrepreneur like myself, Carnegie’s work is a guidebook for creating strong relationships, making good first impressions, becoming a better conversationalist, and other key skills that are necessary for building new business partnerships and finding investors. An entrepreneur must be able to not only support their idea through securing partnerships and investments, but they must be able to lead their company and team. Many young entrepreneurs have limited leadership experience, and Carnegie’s chapter, “Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment,” offers key advice to inspiring a team, valuing input, and offering crique without offending.

Thanks to Shaun Savage, GoShare!

#7-Work Less, Make More by James Schramko

Photo Credit: Kristen Youngs

I'm a big reader because devouring a good book is like picking an experts brain for a few hours. It's pretty invaluable. When it comes to business books, though, I often find they repeat the same tactics, strategies, and information over and over again. Work Less, Make More initially sounded a bit like a get rich quick book, but I was wrong. Instead, it's all about picking apart the way you work and the amount of money you make, then figuring out how to streamline the former and increase the latter. Schramko is an expert in building businesses and revenue streams that don't require him to trade time for money. As an entrepreneur, it's crucial to be able to continue scaling even past the point your working hours allow for. From Schramko's book, I learned my business income seemed positive when looking at the numbers, but when I calculated how much work I was putting in versus how much profit I was getting out, my hourly rate was actually shockingly low simply because my profit wasn't based off working 40 hour weeks; it was more like 60-70 hour weeks. Schramko teaches how to refine those hours while keeping profit at or above the same level. It's been an invaluable book not only for growing my business, but getting my time back, too.

Thanks to Kristen Youngs, Coaching No Code Apps!

#8-How To Win Friends and Influence People

Photo Credit: John Lagoudakis

I've ready many business books over the years. All of the most popular ones. They have had a big impact on my business, but the one book that has the biggest impact is not your typical ‘business' book. It's ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People' by Dale Carnegie. The reason this book is my favorite is because what it teaches you, you can apply to every area of your life. Also, it's not technical. Very simple advice that has a massive impact. Highly, highly recommended.

Thanks to John Lagoudakis, Web Agents Brisbane!

#9-Bullseye Breach: Anatomy of an Electronic Break-In

Photo Credit: Greg Scott

My favorite business book is Bullseye Breach: Anatomy of an Electronic Break-In. It's an educational book disguised as a novel about how fictional retailer, Bullseye Stores, allowed Russian mobsters to steal 40 million customer credit card numbers over the Internet. In the real world, attackers penetrate dozens of organizations every single month, yet many leaders still bury their heads in the sand and don't believe it could happen to them. Exhibit A – just look at the Democrats' emails posted on Wikileaks. Or talk to any of millions of Equifax breach victims. In the fictional Bullseye Breach world, meet the people who suffer the consequences after a group of determined attackers exploit poor management decisions. These include top decision-makers, the attackers, some victims, and a few rogues who try to minimize the damage. In the story, the attackers lose more than they invested.. Justice is not so equitable In the real world. Every CEO should internalize this story because it shows what happens in the real world when organizations only pay lip service to cybersecurity.

Thanks to Greg Scott

#10-Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman.

Photo Credit: Sara Nesbitt

In ZL, Shankman outlines the best practices for creating in customers and clients a loyal, zombie-like response to the brand's products and services. This is not a mindless response, though; by zombie-like, he means that customers have a single-minded focus to tell others about their experiences with the brand. Shankman offers practices he uses but also the ways brands have turned him into a zombie loyalist by providing outstanding customer care on top of high-quality products. The reader quickly learns that their products can be as amazing as one can imagine, but it is the personalized, sincere customer care that turns a love for a product into a passion for a brand. From reading this book, I discovered some of those best practices for myself and began to implement them in my own business in my own unique way.

Thanks to Sara Nesbitt, Coastal Carolina Soap Co.!

#11-Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Photo Credit: Jerry Low

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath. The book is full of real-world examples of how small tweaks at the right place can lead to massive changes. Many of these changes were initiated and lead by people with limited power and resources. How? By influencing people the right way and showing a clear path. Change is easy when you know where you are going and why you are doing it. Also – I like the book's analogy of human decision making – the elephant (emotional decision) and the rider (logical decision). The basic idea is easy to understand and remember. Hence it's easy to practice things I learned from the book and enact changes within myself and my work environment.

Thanks to Jerry Low, Web Hosting Secret Revealed!

#12- Two books

Photo Credit: Trisha Trixie

My favorite book is You, Inc and Good to Great. Both of them really shapred who I am and who I wanted to be as an entrepreneur.

Thanks to Trisha Trixie

#13- Blue Ocean Shift, by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Photo Credit: Gennady Litvin

Blue Ocean Shift is basically an updated continuation of their last book. Blue Ocean Strategy. This book takes the principle of their last book and adds a modern spin on them while also laying out actionable steps the reader can take to implement the principles in the book. The main idea of this book is to teach you how to stand out in a sea of competition or what they call a “red ocean” and how to create your own “blue ocean”.

Thanks to Gennady Litvin, Moshes Law!

#14-Ready, Fire!, Aim

Photo Credit: Craig Murphy

Quite simply because it educates with business stories and practical strategies. Breaking business down to a proven formula that Michael Masterson used him self to grow and scale multiple $100,000+ companies time and time again. What's so great about the book is that it reinforces that you will never get anything right the first time before launch and that its best to launch something small scale, get market feedback, fine tune and reissue as an updated version. It pushes you to not procrastinate and to instead do and focus on what matters: sales.

Thanks to Craig Murphy, ALT Agency!

#15-Remote: Office Not Required' by David Heinemeier Hansson

Photo Credit: Edward Woodcock

It has repeatedly been estimated that over 50% of the entire US workforce will work remotely by 2020, so it's crucial that business leaders both embrace and prepare for this large-scale industrial and cultural change. It requires changes to levels of trust within an organization, the means of measuring performance and how staff communicate. If you're thinking about introducing remote work in your business, this is the place to start.

Thanks to Edward Woodcock, GetDinghy!

#16-Tribe of Mentors

Photo Credit: Paul Armstrong

I received Tribe of Mentors this year as a Christmas present. My first thought on reading the synopsis was what a crock. My second was I'd have to give it a try in case my friend who bought it asked what I thought! The book is a collection of answers to the same 11 questions posed to over 130 of the world's top performers – entrepreneurs, athletes, and artists. I read a chapter – a set of Q&As – most mornings. I've taken some great inspirations and learnings, and have gifted it out perhaps a dozen times. Several themes come out across the questions and the only downside is the numbers of books it's now added to my to-read list! If you read it you'll know what I mean. Hats off to both Tim and all those who gave their time to contribute.

Thanks to Paul Armstrong, Sitback Solutions Pty Ltd!

#17-Zero to One

Photo Credit: Nicolas Straut

My favorite business book is Zero to One by Peter Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook and co-founder of PayPal. This book provides valuable insights into entrepreneurship and the technology space, often contradicting popular wisdom like his rebuttal of the belief that competition is an unabashed good. Thiel argues on this point that competition is for losers and that innovators should escape competition and create new categories of products to capture more capital which is otherwise competed away in more competitive markets. Zero to One alternates between the theoretical and practical, for example, he also provides clear direction for planning your startup organizationally from the ideal salary for a CEO to how many people should be on a board of directors. It's brief enough to be reread multiple times for full comprehension and application to your startup or business.

Thanks to Nicolas Straut, Fundera!

#18- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Photo Credit: Nick Santillo

Dweck points to two fundamental mindsets— a “fixed” mindset and a “growth” mindset. Someone who possesses a fixed mindset believes that one’s abilities, intelligence, personality, etc are unchangeable and you're essentially born with what you have. Someone with a growth mindset believes that our capacity can be developed if we embrace challenges, learn from criticism and learn from the success of others. If a business owner is looking for a better understanding of how your mind affects the trajectory of your life—read this book.

Thanks to Nick Santillo, Fractl!

#19-The Success Principles

Photo Credit: Melitta Campbell

As a self-development junkie, I read at least two business books every month. However, the one I keep going back to is ‘The Success Principles' by Jack Canfield. In this one book there are so many amazing lessons – 64 to be precise! – each one potentially business-changing. I love how Jack carefully and thoroughly explains each principle, along with real-life examples, without wasting time on any unnecessary fluff. Much like a fairy tale, each time I read the book I take away a new level of learning and fresh inspiration. These principles have not just helped me to become a better businesswoman and leader, but a stronger and happier person too.

Thanks to Melitta Campbell

#20-The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Photo Credit: Susan McVea

My favorite business book is an oldie, but it's the foundation for my continued success: Steven Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I still refer to it even 20 years later – with dog-eared pages and penciled notes. It taught me how to prioritize and the value of my time above all other things. While I was in corporate and now running my own successful online business, these 7 habits I learned from Covey are principles that help me run my life. I use his principle start with the end in mind all the time in my business.

Thanks to Susan McVea, Susan McVea Consulting Inc.!

#21-The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Photo Credit: Andrei Vasilescu

Among a handful of my favorite business books “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz will remain at the number one place in my list. This unparallel book will help you to sharpen your entrepreneurship mind to deal with different business obstacles. Ben Horowitz has taught us to understand and overcome the potential obstacles we possibly face in our entrepreneurship by explaining different business success and failure narrations in this book. This is a complete business development guidebook for any entrepreneur.

Thanks to Andrei Vasilescu, DontPayFull!

#22-Measure What Matters, authored by John Doerr

Photo Credit: Ketan Kapoor

After reading multiple business books over 10+ years of entrepreneurial experience, I finally found this gem that offers proven and practical advice to business growth without any fluff. What intrigued me the most about the book is the explosive growth strategies that tech giants such as Google and Intel experienced with its learnings. The essence teaches the vital “Objective-Key Results” or the “OKR” concept that can help you scale the biggest business objectives with ease, no matter how intimidating they look. I learnt to set realistic objectives for myself and for all my teams, something I used to falter before. The concept is quite simple: You set the objectives and chart out the key activities or actions that serve as milestones or path to achieve the larger vision without losing out on clarity in-between. And when the broader mission and vision is broken down to both company and individual objectives, you can see a dramatic improvement in productivity, motivation and employee morale. When employees know what to do, why to do and when to do; the far-fetched vision looks not so far then.

Thanks to Ketan Kapoor, Mettl!

What’s your favorite inspirational 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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