- If you’re starting a business in 2020, one of the best ways to learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship is to read advice from those who have gone before you.
- We asked founders, business owners, and executives which books they recommend to anyone starting a business.
- “The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber is one of the most frequently mentioned business books.
- Tim Ferriss, the angel investor and New York Times best-selling author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is a popular author among entrepreneurs.
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Whether you need to know how to pitch, get funding, or create an effective company culture, there’s a book written by experts who have spent much of their lives helping businesses thrive. To find the best reads out there, we asked founders, business owners, and executives which books they recommend to anyone starting a business.
One of the most frequently mentioned books is “The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber, which was originally published in 1986 but remains a timeless staple in business literature. Tim Ferriss, the angel investor and New York Times best-selling author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is also a popular author among entrepreneurs.
Here are 15 books to read if you’re launching a company, want to hone your leadership skills, or need help reaching the next milestone of your business.
‘The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It’ by Michael E. Gerber
Though it was originally published in 1986, the New York Times best seller “The E-Myth” is one book you’ll hear about frequently in today’s entrepreneurial world. Its relevance withstands economic changes, thanks to Gerber’s expertise in business consulting — Inc. magazine has called him the No. 1 small-business guru.
Ginger Siegel, the North America small-business lead at Mastercard, recommends the book for teaching entrepreneurs that there is more to business than pursuing a passion — in fact, understanding numbers and spreadsheets is very necessary. “Even if you went into the business and love baking cookies or love consulting, you have to know the other side,” she told Business Insider.
Ken Lineberger, the cofounder and CEO of Waters Edge Wineries, a winery franchise based in California, said the book is eye-opening for both new and veteran business owners. “It really changes your paradigm about how you see your role in the business as an owner and how you see your employees,” he said.
‘Profitable Partnerships: Improve Your Franchise Relationships and Change Your Life’ by Greg Nathan
As the CEO of a franchise business, Lineberger said it’s common for franchisees to rely heavily on corporate leadership during startup, but once they are running smoothly, they stop seeing value in the relationship. “It doesn’t matter if you’re McDonald’s or Subway or Water’s Edge, you go through this evolution as a franchisee where you can start to resent the corporate mothership if you don’t get back on track,” he said.
That’s why he makes “Profitable Partnerships” required reading for all of his franchisees. “I want them to know how to correct it and how do you value the relationship from both sides of it,” he said.
‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss
Ferriss’ book is a popular choice in self-help, particularly for career success and time management. He puts practicality behind the saying, “Work smarter, not harder,” by explaining how he cut his hours from 80 to four per week and earned more money.
Daina Trout, the cofounder and CEO of Health-Ade Kombucha, said the book showed her that the higher up you get in a business, the better it does. It helped her “to push away from being a technician and into a manager, and then to push away from being a manager to a leader,” she said.
‘Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike’ by Phil Knight
Another book recommended by Trout is “Shoe Dog,” which tells the story of Nike’s creator, Phil Knight, who was CEO of the company from 1964 to 2004.
After he graduated business school, Knight borrowed money from his father to sell shoes out of the trunk of his car. His success in building a company with a market capitalization of more than $125 billion set a precedent for startups, sneaker culture, and brand power.
‘This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See’ by Seth Gordon
Adii Pienaar, the vice president of the marketing company CM Commerce, said he found this book fascinating because it explains marketing in terms of finding like-minded people. “It really gets into storytelling and how to think about building a brand in a business and not necessarily trying to be everything for everyone,” he said.
‘The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’ by Malcolm Gladwell
Though Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” has been around for 20 years, Angela Wator, the owner of the party-supply store Bash Party Goods, said the concepts felt especially relevant today. “I’ve read it a few times, and I find it really helpful in marketing to millennials and also analyzing my business growth,” she said.
‘Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action’ by Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek is known for having one of the most popular TEDx Talks of all time, with more than 47 million views on Ted.com. His message on leadership is based on his book “Start With Why,” which says people won’t buy into a product until they understand the “why” behind it.
Jessica Morelli, the owner of Palermo Body skin-care brand, found this book helpful for her business. “It shows that all humans really want is connection and to be understood. If you approach business in the same way, and find how to connect with your customers, you’ll end up being a heck of a lot more successful than the gimmicks that trap so many businesses from next-level success,” she said.
‘Business Plans for Dummies’ by Paul Tiffany and Steven D. Peterson
Before starting her Cleveland bakery, Colossal Cupcakes, Kelly Kandah read “Business Plans for Dummies” to write her first business plan. She didn’t go to business school, so the book made the concepts easy to understand, and she recommends it to any first-timers, regardless of experience or degrees. “It helped me know if I was able to afford my location, and it put everything in front of me that I was probably unaware of or afraid to even look at,” she said.
‘Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers’ by Tim Ferriss
Matthew Cummings is the owner of Pretentious Glass Co. and Pretentious Beer Co., a glassware company and a beer brewery in Knoxville, Tennessee, respectively. As a self-proclaimed recovering workaholic, he said the content and approach in “Tools of Titans” were refreshing.
“This book really pushed me to dive deeply into entrepreneurial self-education and was one of the first times in my adult life I started to think about my own self-care,” he said.
‘Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!’ by Robert T. Kiyosaki
Mark Stallings is the CEO of Casely, an e-commerce company that sells fashionable phone cases, which he cofounded with his sister Emily. Before starting Casely, 17-year-old Stallings operated a small eBay business out of his bedroom. That’s when he read “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” which helped him think differently about business and investing. “I always knew I did not want to take the traditional path that most people follow, and this helped me feel confident that I was not making a mistake,” he said.
‘The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done’ by Peter F. Drucker
Mark Stallings read “The Effective Executive” in early 2019, when Casely was gaining traction. As an introvert, he said leadership has always been daunting. The book changed his mindset and taught him that “effectiveness can be learned and must be earned.”
“There may be some individuals better suited for leadership roles, but to be an effective manager, you need to develop the skill of effectiveness,” he said.
‘Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative’ by Austin Kleon
Before she became the lead designer and cofounder of Casely, Emily Stallings loved taking on creative projects in her spare time. But she was never formally trained in graphic design or art. She said “Steal Like an Artist” was transformational for her creative confidence.
“Creative ideas don’t just come out of nowhere, you need to seek them out. After reading this book, I couldn’t stop coming up with case-design ideas,” she said.
‘Principles: Life and Work’ by Ray Dalio
“Principles” is a compilation of advice from the most successful hedge-fund founder, Dalio. Emily Stallings had a friend who worked at Bridgewater and recommended the book to her. “I found his principles to be harsh but very honest and full of important lessons,” she said.
Stallings found one principle in the book particularly influential in the way she and her brother approach their roles at Casely. “Everybody has their strengths and their weaknesses in the workplace — and it’s important to identify them and use people efficiently,” she said.
The cofounders identified their unique strengths and compartmentalized the tasks best suited to those strengths. “Often what I was bad at, Mark was able to take the lead on and vice versa. And when neither of us were proficient, we looked to outsource or hire someone who would be better suited for the job,” she said.
‘Clockwork: Design Your Business To Run Itself’ by Mike Michalowicz
Deidre Mathis is the owner of Wanderstay hostel in Houston. On top of running her business, she’s an avid reader. “I have 15 books on queue,” she said. One of her favorite books, “Clockwork,” gives advice to entrepreneurs who feel bogged down by daily tasks and shows them how to manage their businesses more effectively so they have more free time.
‘Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know’ by John C. Maxwell
Mathis has won 12 pitch competitions, raking in a total of $75,000 to help fund her hostel. Her leadership presence, defined by the way she knows every detail of her business, is one of the traits that helped her stand out in these competitions.
For entrepreneurs who want to learn how to lead and pitch successfully, she recommends reading “Leadership 101,” written by the leadership speaker, writer, and coach Maxwell.