Books contain timeless wisdom that gives us guidance and assurance when we need it most. For aspiring business owners, reading the right book at the right time can be a tremendous boost to knowledge, confidence, and perspective.
We’re always curious to hear book recommendations from successful people, so we asked current business owners about their top picks for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
So much of business is centered on interpersonal connections and managing relationships. Some books improve our ability to navigate these challenges and create key alliances.
“One book that every business owner should read is How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie,” said Aidan Cole, Co-Founder of Nailboo. “When you are in business you depend on a lot of different relationships with vendors, suppliers, lawyers, insurance agents, etc. Being able to make friends and establish rapport is huge, plus people will do business with people they genuinely like. This book will teach you the basics, like how to become genuinely interested in other people, give honest and sincere appreciation, and smile. I recommend every new business owner give this book a read.”
There is no substitute for experience when it comes to managing people and making connections, but this book will give you the blueprint.
A story can often be far more inspiring than a theory or list of statistics. The business might be a game of numbers, but stories reveal a different dimension that can be very useful.
“Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is a phenomenal read for anyone looking to dissect the reasons behind one’s success,” said John Berry, CEO and Managing Partner at Berry Law. “It is not inexplicable and arbitrary, as many believe. Gladwell states that popular explanations of high achievement are often wrong. Rather, success can be studied, and the reasons for it can be explained by using successful individuals as examples. It mentions how an outlier is a truly exceptional individual who, in his or her field of expertise, is so superior that he defines his own category of success.”
If your goal is to write a success story of your own, start by reading about those who have already achieved.
We all have habits, good and bad. But how often do we step back and examine each habit on a deeper level? Some books help us double down on good habits and get rid of the bad.
“The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg offers an intriguing look at why humans are so habitual and how habits can be broken or changed,” said Ashley Laffin, Senior Director of Marketing at Mother Dirt. “This book covers various verticals, from sports to major DTC businesses to movements and takes a fascinating look at the science behind habits. The Power of Habit should make it onto your must-read list for the summer if you’re looking to be more productive and feel energized about your work.”
Anything that helps you adopt better habits is definitely worth reading if you’re on the business ownership path.
Most businesses begin with a vision and drive to succeed, but there are technical aspects to success as well, especially regarding money management and mindset.
“How to Win Friends and Influence People tells us to stop criticizing others and express interest in them instead of things to work in your favor,” said Michael Scanlon, CMO, and Co-Founder of Roo Skincare. “This notable best-seller by Dale Carnegie challenges the idea that personal relationships and business relationships are mutually exclusive. Every new business owner should pick up Robert Kiyosaki’s, Rich Dad, Poor Dad if they want tips on saving money and gaining financial independence.”
Find books that help you make sense of money, and you’ll have the fundamentals you need from the outset.
You definitely don’t want to “wing it” when it comes to managing your personal finances and business bookkeeping. Find a book that offers the essentials with an engaging style.
“A great book to read for new business owners is Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki,” said Sean O’Brien, CMO of Modloft. “This is a wonderful book and talks about the differences between assets and liabilities. Assets of course generate cash flow and liabilities weigh most businesses down. Robert also talks about in the book the difference between being an employee, self-employed, business owner, and investor. The goal is to eventually become an investor. This is a great book for every new business owner to read.”
These can be dry topics, but the best books make them interesting and fun.
Beyond the Paycheck
The motivation to make money is very powerful for aspiring businesspeople. However, to make it to the top of a competitive industry, a deeper purpose is necessary.
“Start with Why by Simon Sinek is one of the most valuable business books I’ve read,” said Dan Potter, Co-Founder of CRAFTD. “I go back to it often. He explains that making money is not a ‘why’, but rather that you must discover a niche that you’re passionate about, ensure there is a shared worldview and community around the topic, and make a unique product. Then strive to make a business that makes money while customers feel that they are getting value. It’s provided a foundation for me to build brands from.”
Use great books to help you define your purpose in business and life for a more fulfilling experience in both.
Closing the Deal
Not everyone is a natural when it comes to sales, and there are plenty of books on the subject that can give you a roadmap. Find one that fits your style and apply the principles ASAP.
“One of my favorite books is titled Go For No by Richard Fenton,” said Artie Baxter, CEO of Paperclip. “Being in business is ultimately about driving revenue into the business, this book teaches how to be fearless when going after customers. This is a sales-driven book, the concept is based on volume. The more people you get to say no, the more often you will run into a yes which will drive sales. This is a great read for first-time business owners.”
Sales may not be your strong suit, but with more knowledge and experience you can turn a weakness into a strength.
Running a business can be described as a long series of problems that never end. Sometimes, you just need a short, succinct book to help you see things from a new, problem-solving perspective.
“Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is a great summer read for any small business owner,” said Katie Lyon, Co-Founder of Allegiance Flag Supply. “It provides more than just advice on business, adding valuable quotes and input on life in general. In particular, the book offers insight on how to access situations, what to look for in others, and yourself. I adhere to one quote in particular which is: ‘When you see only problems, you do not see clearly.’ I keep this in mind whenever I think a specific situation has no remedy. There are always solutions.”
We all need a mindset shift from time to time, and a great book can help us do just that.
Learn from the Best
Is there a brand you’ve known and loved for years? There might be a book that tells the story of the founder and how the company came to be. These are always worthwhile reads to motivate and inspire.
“I would recommend Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog,” said Daniel Snow, Co-Founder of The Snow Agency. “The book provides an interesting look into the life of Phil Knight and the story behind Nike. It is very inspiring and gives a look behind the curtain of the humble beginnings of such an iconic brand. The book also offers some great business and leadership advice.
Your brand might not be the next Nike, but why not apply the principles from the most successful companies on earth?
Mind Over Matter
In the cutthroat world of business, mindset is everything. The best books will reshape how you approach problems in business with the right frame of mind and employ creative solutions.
“In Napoleon Hill’s influential best-seller, Think and Grow Rich, he discusses the power of positive thinking and its ability to improve your life personally and professionally,” said Rym Selmi, Founder of MiiRO. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki, offers advice and strategies to save money that is valuable to every business owner. He explains the idea of having your money work for you over you working for it.”
Your mindset won’t transform overnight, but these books will spark a slow and steady evolution over time.
Many entrepreneurs start with a purpose and a passion for their business, but lose sight of that over time. Read books that help remind you of that foundational driving force and stay inspired.
“Start with Why by Simon Sinek professes the need to know why you created the business for it to be successful,” said Robert Applebaum MD, Owner of Applebaum MD. “When there is no specific purpose, it throws your business off track because that reason is what made you prosperous. Dale Carnegie’s high-profiled bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People explains the importance of listening and not criticizing others in order to get them to like you.”
Remember, you can revisit the same classic books again and again, and always find new bits of wisdom within.
Whether you’re starting a business with your partner or a small team of friends, teamwork will be key from square one. It becomes even more important when you start expanding and adding people to your roster. Be prepared.
“The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni has really guided me with insights and best practices for building teams,” said Eric Palm, CEO of Fuzzy Pet Health. “The most important thing we can do to drive growth at this stage of our company’s evolution is to learn how to effectively work together. Everyone on our team brings something unique to the table and my job is to make sure that all those things jive to create both business value and a productive, healthy environment.”
There’s no avoiding team dynamics in the workplace, especially for entrepreneurs. Equip yourself with the right strategies to make the most of your team.
Most business books will boil down to a simple lesson: be more effective. Better communication, higher productivity, stronger team cohesion – effective habits are at the foundation of everything.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is an excellent book for first time business owners,” said Michael Scott Cohen, CEO of Harper + Scott. “This book will teach you how to wake up everyday with a set routine that helps form daily habits. The book will teach new business owners how to be productive, what tasks to put first, how to win, seek to understand, etc. This is a fantastic read for anyone running a business, especially a new business.”
Business is often a trial-and-error process, but we can minimize those errors by learning from experts in the field.
Lessons in Empathy
Of all the business lessons we learn, “hard skills” like sales and systems seem to be the most important. As you’ll soon discover, “soft skills” like empathy and collaboration matter, too.
“The classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their professional relationships,” said Dr. Zachary Okhah, Founder and Chief Surgeon at PH-1 Miami. “This book teaches the principles of how to better understand people so that you can build stronger, longer-lasting connections. You learn that asking questions shows that you are genuinely interested in people and care about them.”
Become well-rounded with both soft and hard skills to be an unstoppable force in business.
Everyone needs a reality check now and again, and some books will challenge our core beliefs and put the spotlight on our weaknesses. It isn’t comfortable, but it’s necessary.
“The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz,” said Vivek Ravisankar, Co-Founder and CEO of HackerRank. “This is the most real book for a CEO or business leader. Oftentimes, the external view of companies is that they are always doing great. However, the reality can be very different – running a startup isn’t always easy. I found it therapeutic to read this book and think it’s an important read for every entrepreneur because it teaches you how to focus on the road instead of the wall when there are so many things changing internally and externally that impact your company.”
Remember that there’s no finish line in the business world, and a new challenge always awaits.
The most recent best-selling business book isn’t necessarily the best or the most applicable to your situation. Dig back into the archives and see what ancient wisdom you can find.
“The book I would recommend is Sun Tzu’s The Art of War,” said Ben Cook, Jr., Vice President and General Counsel of Cook Capital Group and Printed Kicks. “It’s not a pure business book, but as a lawyer, business owner, and entrepreneur, I’ve found it to be very helpful. If anything, it gets you into the process of managing information, thinking through competitors’ moves, and adapting to situations quickly.”
Some books are simply must-reads, no matter where you are on your career path. These recommendations are universal. Even if you don’t plan on starting a business, great books can help you be more effective, efficient, and accomplished. Get reading!
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