All would-be entrepreneurs have one thing in common: a steep learning curve. Sounds daunting, right? But with the right books for a strong foundation, the journey of building a business can be one of discovery and empowerment. I’ve rounded up the best books for starting a business, each with expert insights and tips to set you up for success. Highlighted for their utility at different stages of starting your own business—and for different needs, from managing operations to creating a healthy workplace culture—each title contains unique solutions applicable across industries. The road you travel might be less traveled by, but now you have an entrepreneurial roadmap, thanks to these experts. And that makes all the difference.
Consultant Michael E. Gerber has earned small-business guru status by defining and debunking the “E-Myth," or entrepreneurial myth: the (usually wrong) assumption that a person who excels at the technical or operational work of a business will succeed at running that business. If you love to bake, and you make the best pastry in town, should you open a bakery? Perhaps not. To sustain a successful small business, in addition to being a masterful technician, you also need to be an effective manager with mastery of profit-generating systems and an entrepreneur who can lead a team clearly into the future. Addressing the stages of a company—infancy, adolescence, and maturity—Gerber gives readers the tools necessary for working on the business, not in it. For entrepreneurs without an MBA degree, consider this, one of the best books for starting a business, your graduate school.
In this book—which builds on her previous titles, Reinventing You and Stand Out—marketing strategy consultant Dorie Clark showcases dozens of entrepreneurs and explains her own business model, fueled by eight distinct revenue streams designed to diversify revenue and minimize risk. These range from professional speaking to executive coaching. "It all coalesces in a self-reinforcing flywheel of business," she told me in a 2018 interview about Entrepreneurial You. In her books on starting a small business, Dorie coaches readers on how to become a recognized expert—and to leverage that status as a trusted source across platforms, from podcasting to online courses. Clark’s gift is in providing clear, precise strategies for abstract challenges around marketing and branding. If you want to monetize your ideas across multiple income streams and build a loyal audience, follow her lead.
This 2004 international bestseller is by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors of strategy at INSEAD, one of the world's top business schools. Their 2017 follow-up, Blue Ocean Shift, expands on this classic’s step-by-step guidance for moving past competition in an overcrowded industry.
With the right books for a strong foundation, the journey of building a business can be one of discovery and empowerment.
By making competition obsolete, they prove, business owners can open up unexplored areas of market opportunity. Known as "blue oceans" within their framework, these uncharted waters are in contrast to "red oceans," so-called for their blood-red, cut-throat competition. For those who want to create entirely new demand, beyond the known market space, the perspective in Blue Ocean Strategy will steer you there. That's why it still stands out as one of the best books for starting a small business.
Zingerman's, a gourmet food business group, is an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Co-founded by Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw, it has expanded since 1982 from a single deli to an organization with more than 700 employees and annual sales of over $50 million. The company's irreverent, counter-culture approach crackles through this book by Weinzweig, the first in Zingerman’s four-volume Guide to Good Leading series. It contains practical advice, like "An 8-Step Recipe for Writing a Vision of Greatness," along with actual recipes (for Zingerman's potato latkes, hot cocoa cake, and more)—and a killer suggested reading list. Entrepreneurs who want all stakeholders to win and community to grow stronger will feast on this book.
Since working in the video gaming and advertising industries and writing the 2014 bestseller Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal has changed course while keeping focus on technology, psychology and business. Whether you're prone to procrastination and distraction, or simply want to cultivate better self-management habits, this practical 2019 guide is full of easily applied parameters and philosophical musings. Eyal has taught courses on applied consumer psychology at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is an angel investor in startups. Always ahead of the curve, he’s now leading us into the future of our relationship with big tech.
A Silicon Valley veteran, Kim Scott has been a CEO coach at Dropbox and Twitter and taught management at Apple University following a leadership position at Google. Now she leads Candor, Inc., which helps companies implement the strategies contained in this book. With guidance on bringing your whole self to work, establishing trust with your direct reports and how to give and receive praise and criticism, Scott envisions—and helps create—work environments with totally open communication and more efficient collaboration. In a world like this, everyone wins.
You don't have to be an aspiring television show creator, or even a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal, to gain from this book by Shonda Rhimes. As one of the leading women in entertainment and a trailblazing Black showrunner and producer, she shares universally relatable stories of overcoming professional and personal challenges in this clear-eyed and candid memoir. The book's title refers to Rhimes' vow to get over her fears by saying "yes" to everything that scared her. If you want to grow beyond your comfort zone as an entrepreneur, allow Rhimes and her masterful storytelling to inspire you. If you want to stretch your repertoire of books on starting a small business, this will expand your world.
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