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.
I first read Rework on a plane to Alaska in the first year of my business in early 2010, and make it a point to read Rework about once a year. It’s easy to digest, and offers some simple, straightforward advice about running a business. It’s probably not like any business/entrepreneur book that you ever read, but even looking back on it today, there is some advice in there that really speaks to me. Mostly about how doing things the regular way, isn’t necessarily the right way. And the authors, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanssson, don’t just walk the walk, they talk the talk in their daily life. I can’t recommend it any higher.
Thanks to Brian Willingham, Diligentia Group Inc.!
#2-Small Giants by Bo Burlingham
My favourite read over the past year has been Small Giants by Bo Burlingham. There’s an obsession in the entrepreneur culture with being the next massive success like Facebook or Amazon. However, Burlingham uses a carefully curated group of successful companies to showcase an interesting point. Choosing to stay small might just be the secret to creating the kind of fulfillment and impact a larger business never could.
Thanks to Patrick Leonard, Brighter Digital!
#3- 4 Hour Workweek
It’s hands-down 4 Hour Workweek. I’ve read about 30 business books and 4HWW was by far the most comprehensive and tactical. The lessons in the book range from how to establish yourself as an expert, automation strategies and thinking models (such as the 80/20 rule) to more baseline life principles like why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s the book I would have wanted to write and it’s had a huge impact on me and how I run my business.
Thanks to Chris Facey, Freightsavvy.com!
#4-Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Starting and growing a business is inevitably filled with so many highs and lows for all entrepreneurs. Every entrepreneur faces tough challenges and times of self-doubt. That’s why Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is my favorite business book. While reading Shoe Dog it felt so great and affirming to read about all of the crazy struggles and problems that even somebody as successful as Phil Knight faced while building an amazingly successful company like Nike. It puts so many things into perspective that of course, you are not the only business owner that faces seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Thanks to Jesse Silkoff, MyRoofingPal!
#5-The 60 Minute Startup
It’s about Agile Methodology. A system usually applied to software but when applied to a startup, it’s possible to build a sustainable business in only one hour per day and reach your first paying customer in thirty days or less. It’s the same methodology that built Uber, Instagram, and Airbnb. Unknowingly, I had a portion of the formula myself, the author reached out to me to contribute to a specific chapter of the book. When I read the book in its entirety I was blown away at how powerful this system is and that we all should be focusing on building ‘Agile Businesses’. Agile Entrepreneurship is already shaping now and the future.
Thanks to Rio Rocket
#6- Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
My favorite business book is Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by UCLA Anderson School of Management Professor Richard Rummelt. I rarely hear people talking about it, but it’s a great book that distills key strategic insights taught at the best business schools for the average business person. Every business leader will find his take on bad strategy useful. Simply put it is when we mistake goals and culture for a plan that chooses the focused action that will lead to success. I read it every two years and pick up new nuggets each time.
Thanks to Paul Bromen, HelpfulHabitat.com!
#7- Crack the Investment Code
This comprehensive book on the basics of venture capital- written by the great Judy Robinett (basically the Peggy Guggenheim of Start Ups)- provides valuable step-by-step instructions on how to create pitches that attract suitable investors, and how to structure deals that benefit both sides. It includes a roadmap for locating the best funding sources and industry mentors, as well as valuable insight into how investors think and what pitfalls to avoid when looking for funding.
Thanks to Alexandra Nima, Thesophisticatedgeek.com!
#8- Getting To Yes
I recommend Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. I took his negotiations class in business school and this reminds me of what he taught us, we are constantly negotiating in business and in life and you have to always keep in mind what your best alternatives are and be ready to walk away. It explains the art of negotiation and offers a roadmap to come to agreement whether you need it personally or professionally. A timeless classic that never goes out of style.
Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!
#9-Greg McKeown’s Essentialism
As an entrepreneur leading two service-based businesses, there are many demands competing for my attention. It can be daunting and—at times—overwhelming. Which is why Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is my favorite book. McKeown reminds me that I can’t do it all, and that it would be disastrous if I tried. Essentialism is all about getting clear about purpose, prioritizing what truly matters, and being disciplined about only doing that which helps you make meaningful progress along your path. Essentialism can be painful. It acknowledges the need for trade-offs, the need to abandon potential pursuits, but it underscores a truth that has been confirmed time and again in the leadership literature and the lives of the most successful among us, which is this: those who achieve their potential do less, but obsess.
Thanks to Melissa H. Smith, PhD, MBA
#10- Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
One of the business books I’ve read recently has been “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble” by Daniel Lyons. It’s a true story about a journalist who worked at Silicon Valley startup, HubSpot, just before the company went public. From the start, it’s a rollercoaster of an adventure, with Daniel arriving to his first day of work to find nobody knew who he was or what he was meant to be doing! As a startup founder myself, I’d definitely recommend other founders give this a read as it shares great insights into the crazy world of startups.
Thanks to Danny Scott, CoinCorner!
#11- Traction, by Gino Wickman
I’d recommend that book aspiring founders and seasoned ones because it covers the timeless fundamentals. Wickman covers the basics of starting and running a business. He talks about everything from setting goals and objectives at the ground level, to managing people as the business grows. It’s really business 101 without all the trendy startup terms and examples. Wickman also introduces the EOS – the Entrepreneur Operating System – which many founders would be familiar with (in some way, shape or form, if not directly from the book). And after 4 years, it’s still how I run Venngage. Reading that book has helped me a lot.
Thanks to Eugene Woo, Venngage!
#12- Building Wealth One House at a Time
When it comes to thought leadership on real estate investing, John Schaub is the go-to guy. No one else is able to write about complex ideas like financing, negotiation, and legal contracts in such a down-to-earth way. If you’re looking to add some real estate to your portfolio but don’t know where to start, this book has everything you need. From a basic outline of principles and strategies to actionable advice on property management, Building Wealth One House at a Time will teach you everything you have to know to succeed.
Thanks to Connie Heintz, DIYoffer!
#13-On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis
For anyone who is thinking about going into management but isn’t secure in their leadership abilities, Bennis’ book is a must-read. He breaks down the role of leadership into short, easy-to-digest points that makes it feel much more manageable. And, he supports his guide with fascinating stories about how some of history’s greatest leaders handled trying situations. I read this one years ago and when I put it down, I was so inspired that I felt like I could take on anything. Even today, decades into my career, I return to this book whenever I need a bit of inspiration.
Thanks to Jon Hill, The Energists!
#14-High Output Management
One of my favorite business books is High Output Management by Andy Grove, CEO at Intel. One of the reasons it’s my favorite and a must-read for CEOs is that Andy approaches scaling a business from an engineering perspective—every gear moving in the right direction to make the engine scalable and repeatable. Andy’s clear explanation of how to help managers make their teams more productive and performant is a must-learn for CEOs that want to build highly efficient departments and teams.
Thanks to Jordan Boesch, 7shifts!
I loved Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian Slywotzky and Karl Weber. It challenges you to think about demand in a different way and highlights various companies that have really embraced innovation. The premise is to imagine a product or service that people don’t even know they want or need – and to create it by seeing issues and opportunities through the eyes and hearts of your customers.
Thanks to Michael Stahl, HealthMarkets!
#16-How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s an oldie but a goodie, as one of the most important things every business needs to understand is how to work with others. This book is a masterclass on how to get out of your own way so you can understand others and better communicate with them. A must, not just for business owners, but for everyone in the business.
Thanks to Taylor Hill, Closing Commander!
#17- Good to Great
Good to Great by Jim Collins, published in 2011, is engrossing, uncomplicated, and appealing. Jim is known for writing popular business/management books. His seven characteristics for the companies that make them Good to Great following Hedgehog concept that overlaps three circles what makes you money? What could you be best in? What strikes a match? The book throws the idea of LEVEL5 Leadership, a leadership which is a mixture of humbleness and humility that drives the direction to the Great.
Thanks to Tim Fox, Outdoor With J!
#18-Your Best Year Ever
My favorite business book is Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt. This book is down to earth, real-talk about the big yet often unspoken roadblocks of starting a business. Things like fear, procrastination, and lack of progress are totally unwrapped in a vulnerable, relatable way. The author dives even deeper into explaining a proven and research-driven way to tackle these hurdles before they tackle you. This book has a lot of practical information that I think other business owners like me would benefit from!
Thanks to Kyle Kauffman, Kauffman Kitchens!
#19- What Would Steve Jobs Do?
This book breaks down Steve Job’s overall approach to all that he did and provides you with a framework with which you can use for your own business. It takes 6 key areas and looks at them in terms of how Job’s would tackle them. These include how he viewed the customer, culture, leadership, branding and marketing. It’s a great insight into how his brilliant mind worked and how we can apply his principles.
Thanks to Sean McPheat, MTD Training Group!
#20-Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Here is my favorite Business Book: Innovation and Entrepreneurship By Peter F. Drucker. This landmark book has left its massive impact on modern business corporations. More than 20 years since its publication, Innovation and Entrepreneurship is still the most authoritative and comprehensive work on the subject. Peter Drucker, along with his mantra “Business is simply other people’s money,” highlights the importance of small businesses with the examples
from history. Drucker questions the decline and rise in the US economy from 1965 to 1985, and proved that it was small and medium-sized corporations who managed to create these 40 million jobs for unemployed Americans. The large corporations or national governments did not make it for a large population. This book sticks with the seventeenth century’s definition entrepreneurship, i.e., shifting economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.
Thanks to Samantha Odo, Precondo!
As a speed reader and Savant, I have a deep thirst for new information. I like to periodically take the ferry to the UK to fill my car up with books in Oxford at the world-famous Blackwell’s book emporium. My favourite book on leadership is actually a 6-volume boxset from Harvard Business Review (HBR) – The Essentials, Managing Yourself, Managing People, Leadership, Strategy and Change Management. It has pride of place on my desk right now. This was terrific reading when I led teams and travelled the world with my high-level consulting crew who went on to be poached by governments, major universities and Fortune 500s.
Thanks to Marie O’Riordan, Prepaid Financial Services Limited (PFS)!
#22- How Successful People Think
I have seen throughout my life that people who do not excel blame others and luck for their failures. Contrarily, the magnate business does not become part of the rat race. They keep applying smart strategies while working hard and reach high-stations of success. I always used to think that which thing set aside the successful business people from others. John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author who gave me the answer in his book. While skimming through the pages of “how successful people think,” I discovered a million dollar secret that the thinking patterns of successful people are quite different from others. Thoughts work as a seed to build good habits that unlock success. A person is nothing but a combination of his habits. Once someone else will develop the same mindset, he will start getting the same results as well. Mr. Maxwell has convinced me entirely through his writing that the thought process is the foundation of success. Undoubtedly, the Author promulgated the precepts of success in this masterpiece. Further, I have learned “how to think” and what strategies to implement to be successful in business. This book is a road guide for individuals who have a burning desire to experience noteworthy success in business.
Thanks to Tyler Sellers, Total Shape!
#23- Measure What Matters, John Doerr & Larry Page
Measure what matters is an eye-opening book about how to set goals for your company. It teaches you how to do in a very practical way that’s both measurable and ambitious. I love the whole mind frame about making sure that each individual goal among the employees can be viewed and supported by anyone in the organization. On top of that, the ideas in the book help you make sure that people actually work toward the goals.
Thanks to Morten Storgaard, GoDownsize.com!
#24-How to Win Friends and Influence People
Although not exactly a book about business, my favourite book is ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie. The title of the book may seem a bit cheesy, but it is full of many of the best gems on how to deal with people as well as selling yourself and your services, all of which are the lifeblood of any business. Tips such as learning to become genuinely interested in other people is one of my main takeaways of this book that has made a major impact in my business endeavours. This book is a must for anyone who wants to succeed in business.
Thanks to Kian Tan, Drbodygadget.com!
#25-The Success Principles
The best book I have read that has helped me in my business is The Success Principles By Jack Canfield. I was very scattered in my thinking and actions when I first starting my coaching business. This book helped me to really get clear about the business I wanted and it helped me create a success mindset. It’s a book I go back to almost every year to keep me focused.
Thanks to Wendy Tomlinson, Morning Business Chat!
#26- The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
Taken as a way to approach business, not just the story of an unlikely hero, it gives an interesting story. Don’t judge people by their outward appearance, seemingly small people are often stronger than even they know, an unlikely band of motivated people can move mountains (or take them back), and someone is always trying to take your cheese, I mean treasure. Not everyone will understand you when you set out to do something new or unique, but when you come home with all that gold, those same people will want to be your friend now.
Thanks to Ian Peterman, Peterman Design Firm!
#27-Building a Story Brand
Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand completely changed the way I do business and how I help my clients do theirs. He explains in very simple, step-by-step terms how to use storytelling techniques to grow your brand and show your customers the value of what you’re selling. I find myself using these techniques daily to show my clients how to position themselves better in the marketplace. Every time I refer back to Building a Story Brand, I get a new idea how to reshape digital marketing for the better!
Thanks to Melanie Herschorn, VIP Business Connection!
#28- Art of the Start 2.0
Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for
Anyone Starting Anything. Guy Kawasaki does not mess around with the business jargon, which makes his book more readable and enjoyable. Kawasaki brings a wealth of knowledge from his incredible journey as an employee, entrepreneur, and investor, so his writing actually helps beginners visualize their own journey. What I love most about this book is that Kawasaki acts more like a coach than an author; in addition to great examples and actionable advice, readers are given helpful exercises and recommended further readings after each section. It’s a great book to get a jump start in the business world.
Thanks to Russ Nauta, CreditCardReviews.com!