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Top 10 Business Books for Founders

As all the world’s greatest leaders allude to in their iconic speeches, reading provides you with the knowledge that provides you with power. From biographies recounting the horrors of conflict to upbeat fiction about love and tribulation, every book has a message and has the power to teach, even if you don’t realise it. In fact, some of the best business startup books are anecdotal and down to earth, yet they still have the power to resonate and teach you something new.

You may think business books are little more than someone telling you how to get rich quick – how to bypass the hardship simply by exuding confidence and being brave. You may even think that because you’re passionate about what you do and you have years of experience under your belt, you have everything you need to start a business and be successful.

Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Sure, you can watch videos about people who made it by chance or talk to an acquaintance who has their own business, but that won’t equip you with everything you need to know to make it as a startup entrepreneur.

Instead, you need to focus your efforts on building a collection of books for founders that teach you how to be analytical, a good communicator, innovative, and how to stay one step ahead of the curve.

There are thousands of books out there that all claim to do the above and more but to help you sort the diamonds from the coal, we’ve picked out 10 of the best business startup books that actually have valuable lessons and messages inside.

The best business startup books of 2022

1. Rework – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The first book on our list is Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, both of whom are notable tech entrepreneurs. This book is a great one to start with because it delves into the idea that even if you’re an expert in your chosen field, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re qualified to be an entrepreneur.

Rework is a stripped back book that takes away the pretentious business jargon and replaces it with realistic and vital advice on how to be more productive, how not to overthink, and how to grow your business without blowing your entire budget.

2. The Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman

Every day there is a new product that is marketed as ‘revolutionary’ or ‘must-have’, but very rarely is this the case. Don Norman offers unparalleled advice to those looking to bring a new product to market, explaining how often, the most revolutionary products are those that are the simplest.

The Design of Everyday Things explores cognitive psychology and how important it is for you to have a good grasp of the human brain before assuming that your product is a hit. With this in mind, if you’re thinking of creating a new product, read this book before you start the development process – it may just help you think about things you’d previously missed and avoid failure in the long run.

3. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t – Jim Collins

If your business has good bones but you’re struggling to build a plan on how to take it to the next level, Good to Great by Jim Collins is a useful resource that can help you figure out what your next steps should be.

Collins pulls together examples of companies that had good bones and transitioned into hugely successful businesses, as well as those who also had a good foundation but who didn’t have the ambition or drive to take it any further. To help you avoid getting stuck in that same rut, Collins details how you can push out of your comfort zone and try something new – but more importantly, in a way that won’t tank what you already have.

4. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin

No successful business is the work of just one person – it takes a team. The issue many startups will face is finding people to join their team who believe in the end goal and who are prepared to innovate and reinvent the way in which they work in order to get there.

Every employer will end up with dispensable employees at some point, but in the beginning, you can’t afford to have employees who don’t share your same dreams and aspirations.

Godin touches on finding the right employees early doors and how important it is for you to be able to identify them before taking a chance on them. Linchpin explores important recruitment themes and is the perfect book for entrepreneurs who are at the stage where they can start thinking about bringing other people on board who will help them turn their dreams into a reality.

5. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich - Tim Ferriss

As an entrepreneur, you’ll no doubt need to work hard over a prolonged period, devoting much of your free time to building your business. Oftentimes, when businesses don’t hit the ground running and ultimately fail to reach success, the founder is blamed for not working hard enough or not putting in enough effort or time.

Many people hold the belief that success is a direct result of how much time you spend on something, but as Ferriss highlights in his book, this philosophy is flawed and untrue. He talks about how success can be achieved without sacrificing every ounce of your being simply by thinking smarter and automating where possible.

If you’re looking to ramp up your productivity, this book is a must-read.

Looking to learn more about how a good work-life balance can influence your success as an entrepreneur?

As Tim Ferriss explains in his book listed above, keeping a good work-life balance is essential for success, and sleep is a big part of that. Check out our School of Startups guide on The Science of Sleep to learn more about the link between sleep and business success.
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6. How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

More than 30 million people have picked up this book by Dale Carnegie and for good reason. It’s heralded as one of the best books of all time by those looking to establish their dominance but without losing their friends or sacrificing their likability.

Many CEOs have a reputation for being ruthless and cold, but in today’s world, ethos and morals are everything to brand success, so being able to portray yourself in a likeable way is key to whether your business works or not. If people don’t like you, opportunities won’t present themselves and doors will close. Networking will fall flat and so will your business, emphasising how important it is to present yourself in the best possible light to everyone you come in contact with.

How to Win Friends and Influence People discusses how you can become more relatable and persuasive, and it offers tips on how you can improve yourself and your reputation on both a personal and a professional level.

7. Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Decision making is a core skill for entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t always come naturally. If this is the case for you, pick up a copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. In it, you’ll find information on how stress and decision making are intricately intertwined, as well as how your biases and prejudices come to be from a mixture of intuition and slow thinking.

If your decision-making skills are up to scratch, it’s still worth picking up this book so you can gain a better understanding of the human mind and learn tips and tricks to help you get into the heads of your consumers and target market. When you understand how the human brain works and what your consumers are really looking for, you can level up your marketing and start to see real growth.

8. Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy - Bill Gates

Bill Gates is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. He saw potential in tech at a time when so few others did, and he trusted his intuition. The result is that he is one of the richest people on the planet, but also, confirmation that he has the foresight to predict what is coming next.

This is integral for every entrepreneur, but when it comes to the digital world, not everyone has the expertise Gates does. In Business @ the Speed of Thought, Gates looks at how businesses are likely to change in the future based on what he saw as Silicon Valley started to gain traction.

The book also offers an insight into how technology can help your business succeed long-term rather than hinder it. It’s a great book for entrepreneurs who want to make sure they stay relevant and on-trend, as well as those who are fixated on growth and staying one step ahead of their competitors.

9. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers - Ben Horowitz

As an entrepreneur, you’ll face a lot of obstacles and issues that may set you back. If you don’t have any relevant experience, it can very quickly feel like you’re lost. If you don’t know how to navigate your way around these issues, you’ll never reach success. The trouble is, so few people talk about the bad times or how they overcame them.

Ben Horowitz strays from the norm in his book The Hard Thing About Hard Things, offering up anecdotal advice and guidance on how to deal with the bad aspects of starting a business, such as conflict, losing staff members, and making decisions that have a ripple effect on other people’s livelihoods.

Horowitz talks about how to deal with such obstacles, offering up crucial advice to anyone thinking of becoming an employer or starting their own company.

10. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results - Gary Keller

The final book on our list is The ONE Thing by Gary Keller which details how he effectively prioritises his tasks and what he needs to get done in a day by narrowing his field of vision and being able to identify the important tasks from the less so ones.

This is a particularly good read if you’re the type of person who struggles with being able to prioritise and manage your time efficiently, but even so, it can be useful for everyone looking to become an entrepreneur.

When you get the ball rolling in terms of setting up a business, you’ll quickly find that there are a million and one things that need to be done. No one has the automatic ability to simply focus on the most important tasks because when you’re trying to build your dream, everything is important – or so it seems.

In The ONE Thing, Keller talks about how to filter your priorities from everything else and why multitasking is detrimental to your productivity. If you’re looking for tips on better time management, add The ONE Thing by Gary Keller to your top books for founders list.

In summary

When it comes to the best business startup books, you’re spoilt for choice. Whether you’re looking to bridge a specific skills gap or simply become a better-rounded entrepreneur, the books on this list will help you achieve your ambitions and explore a fresh mindset that is positive, realistic, and, hopefully, successful.

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