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Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs

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The 7 Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs

03.23.23

Why are the biggest names like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey such big fans of reading? It’s simple, really. Reading is a secret weapon, a powerful tool, that helps you gain new skills, and find inspiration when you’re feeling stuck. With each page turned and every word read, you unlock doors to new ideas ahead.

From the classics to the latest trends, books take you to places beyond your lens. They help you learn, grow, evolve and unlock the power to problem-solve. Reading is not only a way to gain new knowledge and skills but also a way to broaden your perspective and see the world in a different way.

Don’t just take our word for it – reading actually reduces stress by 68%, more than listening to music or taking a walk. Dive into these best business books and see for yourself how they can transform your business and your life. Happy reading!

1. Good to Great ~ Jim Collins

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If you’re committed to leading an organization that represents excellence, Good to Great by Jim Collins is a must-read. This book is an exceptional tool for building momentum until a breakthrough is reached. Collins and his team analyzed American corporations and identified 11 that were considered good-to-great examples. They discovered a framework that captures the process each company went through to become great.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice.”

Collins artfully guides the reader through each component of the framework using a storytelling style that leaves the reader feeling like they were present during many of the research team’s meetings. It provides unprecedented insight into the dimensions of leading an organization that consistently delivers and demonstrates excellence.

The Good To Great Framework is composed of three stages: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Within each stage are 6 key concepts, with “The Flywheel” wrapping around the entire model.

The Framework:

  • Level 5 leaders: possess personal humility and professional will, with an ambition towards the company’s success rather than personal gain. They prepare their successors for better results and take responsibility for failures while avoiding self-credit for success.
  • First Who…Then What: successful executives prioritize getting the right people on board before deciding on the direction of their company. This involves selecting individuals based on their character and work ethic rather than their current knowledge or skills, which can be acquired on the job.
  • Confront the Brutal Facts: To make great decisions, companies must face reality first. When leaders make an honest effort to determine the truth of a situation, the right decisions become self-evident.
  • The Hedgehog Concept: three important circles: what you are deeply passionate about, what you can excel at the most, and what drives your economic or resource engine.
  • A Culture of Discipline: is about having disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action within an organization. This approach allows for minimal bureaucracy and gives talented individuals the freedom to take action within the framework of a well-defined Hedgehog Concept.
  • Technology Accelerators: technology should accelerate momentum, not create it when used properly. Companies that became great avoided technology fads and instead became pioneers in applying carefully selected technologies.

The Good To Great Framework is a flywheel that gains momentum with each turn, propelling your team forward toward success. As the results become more tangible and visible, the challenges of commitment, alignment, and motivation begin to dissipate. Meanwhile, the Doom Loop awaits those who fail to maintain consistency and progress in one direction.

Collins proposes that the principles of Good to Great be implemented to achieve great results, and then the principles of Built to Last be applied to create an enduring great company. For those seeking to improve their organizations, the book is a treasure trove of practical insights and tips. Collins’ research and revelations are essential tools in transforming a good organization into one that consistently produces exceptional results.

2. Unscripted ~ MJ. Demarco

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DeMarco argues that society has culturally engineered us for servitude, leading to a lifetime of debt, despair, and dependence. However, he believes that entrepreneurship can provide the solution to breaking free from this paradigm. Unscripted by MJ DeMarco is a book that is divided into five large sections, which focus on identifying the problem with today’s work, explaining in detail what the 9-5 script is, leading into solutions for the problem, providing the blueprint of Unscripted entrepreneurship, and finally, ways to never have to work again in your life!

By following conventional wisdom and living a conventional life, we can only expect to be ordinary. To lead an extraordinary life, we need to break free from the gilded cage of wage slavery and pursue entrepreneurship. DeMarco shows us how the scripted life makes you a mediocre, obedient, dependent, entertained, and lifeless individual, who then becomes a seeder, a compromised party spreading the scripted OS. Instead, he suggests adopting Unscripted entrepreneurship. This isn’t about a paradigm shift; it’s about throwing out the whole damn paradigm.

Unscripted entrepreneurship involves creating a business that’s not just a replacement for a 9-5 job, but a way to achieve freedom and wealth. The book outlines the TUNEF framework, which involves self-reflection and modifying thought patterns as well as repeated and modified actions. To build wealth, DeMarco suggests abandoning the compound-interest approach and focusing on the fiscal TRIcycle of Time, Reality, and Inflation. This book holds a special place in my heart, and it seems like a lot of other people feel the same way!

  • Control is about identifying all the value attributes in your industry and effectively communicating your unique selling proposition.
  • Entry is all about understanding the entry barriers, dependencies, and competitors in your market.
  • Need is about addressing a genuine need in the marketplace.
  • Time is about focusing on the long game and understanding the role that time plays in building wealth.
  • And Scale is about building a business that can grow and evolve over time.

But here’s the thing: you can read all the books in the world and still not make a dime. Action is where the rubber meets the road. So, here’s a little challenge for you: identify one area of your life where you’re action-faking and commit to doing one small, actionable thing that moves the needle in your entrepreneurial journey.

And here’s another pro tip: save early and often! Don’t get me the wrong Compound interest is not your ticket to financial freedom. Instead, as the book outlines, think about the TRIcycle of Time, Reality, and Inflation. This book is the real deal, packed with actionable insights and personal anecdotes that will have you turning pages faster than you can say “entrepreneurial freedom”.

3. The Lean Startup ~ Eric Ries

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While The Lean Startup primarily applies to software-based companies, it still provides valuable insights for traditional businesses. Eric Ries’ book, The Lean Startup, offers a fresh approach to creating and managing successful startups. According to Ries, a startup is an organization that’s all about creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. It doesn’t matter if you’re working alone in your garage or with a team of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom – your mission is the same: penetrate the uncertainty and find a path to sustainable success.

Now, how can you achieve that success? The answer lies in the Lean Startup approach, which helps you make the most of your capital and creativity. Drawing on lessons from lean manufacturing, the approach emphasizes validated learning, scientific experimentation, and other practices that cut down on product development time, measure real progress, and help you understand what customers really want. In other words, it’s all about being agile, adjusting your plans inch by inch to meet changing needs.

So, what can you do to put the Lean Startup approach into action? Start by testing hypotheses based on value and growth. Create a minimum viable product, and see if customers are willing to pay for it. Use split testing to figure out which version of your product resonates most with your audience. By the way, 44% of companies use some kind of split testing software. And focus on one engine of growth – whether it’s sticky, viral, or paid – to maximize your efficiency.

“Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer; anything else is waste.”

Ries also cautions against relying on “vanity metrics” or “success theater,” that only give you the illusion of success. Instead, focus on what customers really want and make incremental changes to your plans. This is the key to agility and long-term success.

One of the key takeaways from the book is that you shouldn’t waste your time crafting elaborate business plans. Nope, instead, you should dive headfirst into “build-measure-learn product development cycles,” where you build, measure, and learn to perfect your product. The Lean Startup approach is all about embracing experimentation and learning and treating failures like golden opportunities to improve. It’s about adapting to customer needs, making changes on the fly, and constantly enhancing products and services. The book also emphasizes the importance of using relevant metrics that can tell you everything you need to know about customer behavior, revenue, and more.

4. Company of One ~ Paul Jarvis

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Paul Jarvis, the author of Company of One, champions the notions of preferring niche over mass, remaining small rather than growing large. Here are some doable measures to get your own Business of One off the ground:

  1. Don’t quit your day job right away. Starting a business can be expensive, and it takes time to become a sustainable success. Make sure you can sustain yourself while building your company.
  2. Find work that you’re passionate about. While it’s not always easy to find a passion that is financially viable, it’s important to do work that you enjoy.
  3. Find a niche. Contrary to popular belief, appealing to a smaller audience can be more effective than trying to appeal to everyone. Focus on a niche market and create a product or service that is tailored to their specific needs.
  4. Keep things simple and let your personality shine through. Customers appreciate a personal touch and simplicity.
  5. Establish a relationship with your audience. This can be done by offering free consultations or trials to potential customers. Understanding their needs is key to fulfilling them.
  6. Avoid large investments. Technology has made it easier to bypass many large investments that were once necessary.
  7. Build your customer base gradually through the snowball effect. A few satisfied customers can lead to more recommendations for others.
  8. Focus on customer retention and service. The personal touch that a small company can offer is a competitive edge over larger companies that may not value customer service as much.

Do you know how in business, the mantra has always been “scale is better”? Well, Jarvis suggests that we should keep things small and straightforward, focusing on problem-solving without throwing more resources at them. Starting a Company of One may not be the traditional path to success, but it offers freedom, independence, and enough wealth to live a fulfilling life that puts the individual at the center of the business.

The Company of One approach sets growth limits, unlike traditional businesses that focus on an ever-escalating scale of growth. The philosophy behind the “company of one” is to make the individual the unit of measure of the business. This approach prioritizes employee well-being and revolves around their needs instead of making them revolve around the goals of the business. It’s an alternative path to success, but for some entrepreneurs, it’s a path worth taking. If you’re tired of the big success rat race and want to live a life where friends, family, hobbies, and quality time are equally important, “Company of One” may be just the book for you.

The Company of One philosophy strikes a chord with many entrepreneurs who want to pursue their passions and live life on their own terms. To embrace the concept, you need to be proficient in various aspects of business, including sales, marketing, management, networking, and client retention. You must also know the difference between simple and easy solutions and be willing to hire freelancers instead of adding personnel. Being selective with clients and products, engaging with your audience, and improving your services will naturally lead to manageable growth. On the other hand, scaling up can be stressful, complex, and expensive, leaving room for mistakes and misunderstandings. The book also provides practical tips, ideas, and suggestions on how to start and lead a company of one, including finding hidden value in relationships and adopting the right mindset.

5. Rework ~ Jason Fried

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You don’t need to be a workaholic, staff up, or waste time on paperwork and meetings to launch a successful business. That’s one of the key takeaways from Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This book offers a rejuvenating and unconventional approach to entrepreneurship, focusing on doing less, embracing constraints, and simplifying the process of starting and running a business. Jason Fried created Basecamp and HEY, both phenomenal products.

In contrast to traditional business advice, Rework denounces the need for writing a business plan, studying the competition, seeking investors, and staffing up. The authors argue that these approaches are harmful and costly, and instead propose a better, faster, and easier way to succeed in business. It provides practical tips and insights on finding a niche, establishing a relationship with the audience, retaining customers, and embracing simplicity as a competitive edge. The authors emphasize the importance of passion, and a personal touch in business.

What makes Rework unique is its concise, interesting writing style that is filled with easy-to-implement tips. The book offers valuable guidance for hardcore entrepreneurs, small-business owners, people stuck in day jobs they hate, victims of “downsizing,” and artists who don’t want to starve anymore.

Overall, Rework is an outstanding book for anyone who wants to learn about a fresh approach to business that is not found in other business books. The author is effective in denouncing meaningless trends in modern business practice and offers a fresh and counterintuitive perspective on entrepreneurship.

6. The Design of Everyday Things ~ Don Norman

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If you’re a UX designer, you’re no stranger to Don Norman, the mastermind behind The Design of Everyday Things. He’s the guy who coined the term “user experience” and founded the Nielsen Norman Group. But does his book deserve a spot on your must-read list? Let’s dig in.

Originally released as “The Psychology of Everyday Things” in 1988, “The Design of Everyday Things” was revised and expanded in 2013. The book explores seven fundamental design principles: discoverability, feedback, affordances, constraints, signifiers, mappings, and conceptual models. Norman masterfully combines basic psychology with design to optimize the communication between the user and the object, making the user’s experience more enjoyable.

“The Design of Everyday Things” is a thought-provoking read that changes how you see mundane objects like doors and kettles. Norman’s critiques of good and bad design elements highlight the designer’s responsibility to create a product that functions well over one that’s only aesthetically pleasing. Features take a backseat to function, and usability trumps beauty in the world of great design.

The book is an excellent introduction to UX design, including user-centered design principles, UX best practices, and design thinking. Although it mainly deals with physical objects, the principles are also applicable to websites and other interactive systems. Here’s a highlight of the seven principles:

  1. Discoverability: how easily a user can discover and understand the available actions and functions of a device or product, through clear and intuitive design.
  2. Feedback: providing users with clear and immediate feedback on their actions, so they can adjust their behavior accordingly and achieve their goals more effectively.
  3. Affordances: properties of an object that suggest how it can be used, based on its physical characteristics and visual cues.
  4. Constraints: design elements that limit or guide the user’s actions and choices, helping to prevent errors or misuse.
  5. Signifiers: visual or auditory indicators that help users understand how to interact with a device or product, such as buttons or sounds.
  6. Mappings: linkages between the controls and the outcome or effect of their use, allowing users to understand how to achieve their desired outcome through the design.
  7. Conceptual models: mental models that users develop to understand how a device or product works, and how it can be used to achieve their goals. Effective design should align with the user’s conceptual model, to reduce confusion and improve usability.

Norman breaks down the seven principles of design and provides real-world examples to help you create user-friendly designs. He also delves into the difficulties designers face and the importance of understanding the mental model users have of your creations. According to a Stanford report, 75% of people base their opinions of a company on its website design, which in turn affects how they feel about the company and where they stand in their user journey.

One concept in particular, “affordances,” is thoroughly explored. Affordances refer to the ways in which an object communicates how it can be used by the user. Norman is credited with introducing the term to design, and it’s a crucial element for creating intuitive and effective designs. What makes Norman’s book so great is how he relates his principles to everyday objects and experiences, making it easy to grasp the concepts and apply them to your own work. He also emphasizes the importance of designing for people as they truly are, not as we’d like them to be.

Overall, “The Design of Everyday Things” is an excellent resource for anyone looking to create designs that truly connect with people. With practical tips and insights, it’s a must-read for designers or UX enthusiast business owners.

Read: Best UI/UX Design Tools

7. The Ultimate Sales Machine ~ Chet Holmes

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The Ultimate Sales Machine is a practical and useful guide for improving your profit margins and making more sales. Holmes suggests that it’s better to focus on a few key areas that make a significant impact, rather than trying to do everything at once. He provides personal experience-based insights on improving sales for hundreds of companies, highlighting the importance of mastering 12 specific areas with “pigheaded discipline and determination” 4,000 times.

  1. The Ultimate Sales Machine Strategy: The key to success is becoming the best at what you do by focusing on mastery and continuous improvement.
  2. The Dream 100 Strategy: Identify the top 100 companies or people who could make a significant impact on your business and focus on building relationships with them.
  3. The Core Story Strategy: Develop a clear and compelling story that communicates your unique value proposition to customers.
  4. The Niche Strategy: Focus on a specific market or niche where you can become the dominant player.
  5. The Best Buyer Strategy: Identify the characteristics of your ideal customer and focus your marketing efforts on reaching them.
  6. The Sales Training Strategy: Invest in training and coaching for your sales team to help them become top performers.
  7. The Sales Management Strategy: Develop a system for managing and tracking sales activities to ensure consistent results.
  8. The Marketing Strategy: Use a combination of online and offline marketing channels to reach your target audience.
  9. The Lead Generation Strategy: Use a variety of tactics to generate leads, including direct mail, email marketing, and social media.
  10. The Time Management Strategy: Focus on the most important tasks and delegate or outsource non-essential activities.
  11. The Hiring Strategy: Develop a systematic hiring process to attract and retain top talent.
  12. The Implementation Strategy: Create a system for implementing new ideas and strategies quickly and effectively.

The book is divided into four sections: management, marketing, sales, and operating your ultimate sales machine. While the management section may not be as applicable for solo entrepreneurs or side hustlers, it provides valuable insights into building an effective sales team. The marketing strategies focus on fundamental marketing and sales techniques, rather than trendy social media marketing tactics.

The sales section is particularly useful, offering a step-by-step guide to building a loyal client base with ideal buyers. Holmes stresses the importance of providing value to your ideal buyers, without being a pushy salesperson. The final section delves into classic self-help topics like “Think & Grow Rich” and “Psycho-Cybernetics.”

Best Business Books FAQs

How Can Reading Business Books Benefit Entrepreneurs?

Reading business books can benefit entrepreneurs in many ways, from increasing knowledge and skills to expanding networks and boosting confidence. It’s a cost-effective way of learning, and the benefits extend beyond just the business world.

How Can Busy Entrepreneurs Make Time for Reading?

Schedule specific reading times (Use Time Management Apps) during the day, like during lunch or before bed. Set goals for yourself, like reading a certain number of books or articles per month. And why not mix it up by listening to audiobooks while you commute or exercise or around bedtime? Remember, it’s not just about making time for reading but making it a priority.

Can the Concepts Be Applied Across Different Industries?

The applicability of concepts across different industries largely depends on the nature of the concepts themselves. Some concepts are specific to certain industries, while others can be applied across different sectors. However, even concepts that are industry-specific can be adapted to suit different contexts.

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