Finding inspiration in the work and experiences of those who have come before us is an integral part of succeeding as an entrepreneur. Fortunately for us, there are myriads of entrepreneurial memoirs, analyses and advice available to us in written works.
Below we have compiled a list of the 13 best books written by and for entrepreneurs with their eye on the prize. While the books that stand out vary from entrepreneur to entrepreneur, we are confident that in the diverse list of classic and modern masterpieces below, you will be sure to find something meaningful with a message that speaks to you and where you are in your entrepreneurial journey.
If you are debating on furthering your business knowledge through a recognised institutional program, you may want to peruse the pages of this advocational piece on the importance of a real-life education.
The Personal MBA argues for the obsoletion of MBA university programs, claiming that most of these programs will set participants back six figures without offering any proven results or advantage in the business industry once completed.
Author Josh Kaufman recommends that, instead, aspiring entrepreneurs should use their time and resources to obtain a fruitful life education by immersing themselves in real-world experiences. Throughout the Personal MBA, Kaufman offers 248 vital business concepts to accelerate success in business and a course of lifelong learning.
In Awaken the Giant Within, Robbins inspires readers to take back the great power they hold within themselves.
Robbins is a renowned business writer and motivational speaker and, in addition to this guide, has authored numerous other titles including Unshakeable, Tony Robbins’ Money, Unlimited Power, and Notes From a Friend.
With an underlying message fostering the use of the Law of Attraction, Awaken the Giant Within encourages readers to take control of their powerful minds by altering how they think, how they feel, and how they behave.
These techniques are applied in the world of business and entrepreneurship by setting ground rules for achievement and positive interaction with new events and opportunities. Robbins sets out strategies for facing the world without fear and creating experiences that fuel success.
The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman is written for those contemplating founding a company. Wasserman challenges potential founders to break down their motives and acknowledge potential obstacles right from the start.
He goes on to elaborate on the crucial need for quick ongoing decision making and the identification of needs and relationships as they arise; Wasserman also offers situation-based advice throughout the book to appeal to a vast audience of potential founders.
One of the prominent takeaways from the Founder’s Dilemmas is the importance of being honest with yourself and using self-awareness to quickly make the crucial decisions that could make or break your company.
Rework is designed for readers that are feeling overwhelmed by the number of perceived resources required to launch a startup.
In this compilation, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson relay why (and how) starting a business requires far fewer resources than you think, and why excessive planning and proposing are actually harmful to generating a successful startup.
The underlying message throughout the book is to keep your vision simple and personal with a minimal corporate aspect.
Losing My Virginity is the autobiography of famed entrepreneur Richard Branson. In this recounting of his life at 48, Branson discloses how the challenges his parents bestowed upon him fostered his entrepreneurial spirit.
Readers will come to the end of Branson’s memoirs with three key takeaways: you don’t have to be born an entrepreneur to be an entrepreneur, always look ahead but keep your mind focused, and remember that the most important skill to develop is creativity.
As one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world and a stakeholder in more than 400 companies, Branson’s memoirs are an invaluable resource for the budding entrepreneur.
In Brian Tracy’s The Psychology of Selling, Tracy details the traits and practices of a successful salesperson. Integral to success as an entrepreneur is the ability to sell yourself and your product or service to potential clientele.
Tracy states that successful salespeople do ten things: do what they love, know exactly what they want, are persistent and determined, commit to lifelong learning, use their time wisely, follow the leader, polish their character, unleash their creativity, treat others as they wish to be treated, and pay the price for success.
In six chapters, Tracy explores the selling process in depth with step by step guidance for readers to engage in confident and successful selling.
Brian Tracy is a renowned motivational speaker with many more books and courses available for those moving through their entrepreneurial journey.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are identified in Stephen Covey’s work as proactivity, beginning with a clear picture of the end result, prioritising, a win/win mindset, attempting to understand before pushing to be understood, synergy, and sufficient self-care. Covey dedicates a chapter to each habit, explaining how to optimally achieve and integrate each into the reader’s day to day routine.
The key message in Covey’s book is that real change always starts within oneself.
Purple Cow by marketing guru Seth Godin focuses on the importance of risk-taking and standing out in business – “like a purple cow among brown cows.”
Godin elaborates on the methodology of creating a truly remarkable marketing process and outlines how to succeed in a changing online marketplace.
The worst thing in business, Godin believes, is to blend in – so get ready to stand out.
The Go-Giver revolves around the fictional story of a young businessman, Joe, and how he propelled his business vision to success using an alternative set of business success principles: the 5 Laws of Stratospheric Success.
Authors Bob Burg and John David Mann present these alternative principles like the Law of Value, the Law of Compensation, the Law of Influence, the Law of Authenticity, and the Law of Receptivity.
Although the application of these laws in this fable telling is fictional, Burg and Mann believe they can be applied in the same way by the reader to achieve real-life business success.
Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg outlines what it means to be productive and how productivity can be achieved on an ongoing basis without burnout.
Central to productive maintenance is understanding discomfort and unfamiliar sensations then using them to fuel further productivity instead of panic. Duhigg also argues that motivation is a skill that can be learned and honed.
Ultimately, readers will learn strategies for maintaining persistence and determination in the pursuit of optimal productivity toward their entrepreneurial vision and business goals.
New entrepreneurs planning for a startup launch will benefit from the advice contained in these pages.
The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank is aimed at providing an alternative method for product development in startups, with Blank arguing that, while the Product Development Model works well for established companies, it is not appropriate for those just starting out.
Thus, Blank presents the Customer Development Model, which he believes is a far more effective process for new entrepreneurs and businesses. In this model, the “four steps to epiphany” are customer discovery, customer validation, customer creation, and company building.
This works as the basis for developing a company that can successfully implement the Product Development Model later on.
Lucky or Smart? Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life is written by Bo Peabody, an American entrepreneur and capitalist founder of more than six successful companies.
In this book, Peabody analyses his life and experiences as an entrepreneur to determine if his success was the result of intelligence or mere luck.
Throughout, it becomes evident that Peabody’s success could be attributed to both, giving an invaluable insight into what set him apart, as well as offering tips and advice for others to achieve success.
Endorsed by both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (among others), Business Adventures, by John Brooks, is a classic entrepreneurial masterpiece.
The book is divided into 12 chapters, each containing a story related to business ventures, most of which are set in 1960s Wall Street. Each story illustrates the entrepreneurial experience and allows readers to derive their own meaning from the actions and consequences of these early entrepreneurs.
While seemingly outdated, it still has much to tell about entrepreneurship at the dawn of the Digital Revolution and, as an iconic era for the acceleration of innovation and entrepreneurship, you won’t want to miss the developmental details that flow through each of Brooks’ adventurous business tales.
Maintaining Diversity in Entrepreneurial Studies
As you select your next stack of motivational reading materials, remember the importance of maintaining diversity in your entrepreneurial studies. This means taking the initiative to expose yourself to a variety of experiences and outlooks driven by the world of business. Doing so will push you to go forth with a greater capacity and take on any new obstacle or opportunity that may come your way.