13 Important Books That Every Entrepreneur Needs to Read

Posted on 2/13/19 9:00 AM by Alexandre Gauthier

Many of the world’s most savvy business professionals have one thing in common: they read. A lot.

Just ask someone like Mark Cuban. Perhaps best known as the colorful owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and one of the familiar faces on the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” the billionaire revealed on his blog that he still reads “more than three hours almost every day.”

Discover my picks for the best business books on the market right now:

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“Most people won't put in the time to get a knowledge advantage,” Cuban added. “To this day, I feel like if I put in enough time consuming all the information available, particularly with the net making it so readily available, I can get an advantage in any technology business.”

Warren Buffett, one of the most respected voices in business and investing, takes things a step further. “I still probably spend five or six hours a day reading,” Buffett said in his recent HBO documentary. “I like to sit and think. I spend a lot of time doing that and sometimes it is pretty unproductive, but I find it enjoyable to think about business or investment problems.”

Broadening your mind and taking the time to learn something new every day through reading can also pay huge dividends from a revenue standpoint. “I read every book and magazine I could,” Cuban said of his early years working in the tech industry. “Heck, $3 for a magazine, $20 for a book. One good idea that led to a customer or solution and it paid for itself many times over.”

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With an overwhelming amount to choose from at bookstores and online through vendors like Amazon, it can be difficult to choose a few standouts to sink your teeth into. From well-respected classics to recent page-turners, here are my picks for the best books that will help you grow your business knowledge and acumen:

 

“Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street”

Author: John Brooks

Featuring a dozen New Yorker pieces from the 1960s, John Brooks’ tales of business decision-making gone right (and wrong) still holds up today. In fact, according to his blog, this is Bill Gates’ favorite business book of all time.

“Brooks’s work is a great reminder that the rules for running a strong business and creating value haven’t changed,” wrote the Microsoft Corporation founder. “It doesn’t matter if you have a perfect product, production plan, and marketing pitch; you’ll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans.”

 

“The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”

Author: Clayton M. Christensen

Another world-renowned bestseller, Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma” outlines how you can capitalize on new technologies and use them to your advantage in your business, especially if your competition isn’t as willing to embrace them

One of the ultimate guides for those focused on disruptive innovation, it’s easy to see why the knowledge contained in this great read has influenced so many business titans over the years. According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO cited this book as one of the main reasons why they needed to take cloud computing seriously.

 

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“The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success”

Author: William N. Thorndike

As the title states, the formula behind owning a healthy business and scaling it to become a model of long-term success isn’t as cut-and-dry as you might think. Wisdom and industry experience aren’t the only qualities that make a CEO great – being humble, unassuming and even frugal can also play a huge part.

From The Washington Post Company to Berkshire Hathaway and beyond, “Outsiders” provides aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners with an invaluable look into the minds and methods of business trailblazers. You’ll discover how they used charisma, confidence, rational reasoning and a willingness to think outside the box to leave their mark on the world.

 

“How to Win Friends and Influence People”

Author: Dale Carnegie

One of the most storied of all business books, Dale Carnegie’s timeless collection of advice has been in print for nearly a century and sold more than 15 million copies for a reason. His insight into self-improvement, salesmanship and interpersonal skills continue to help countless individuals find their voice and become leaders in their respective industries.

The topics Carnegie touches on in his book include six ways to make people like you, twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking and how to change people without arousing resentment. It’s a must-read (and re-read) for any business professional looking to take that next step.

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“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”

Author: Stephen R. Covey

A huge part of becoming a game-changing business leader is developing habits that will allow you to be productive and efficient with your time every single. For an education on how to effectively enact personal change, it doesn’t get much better than Stephen Covey’s book (which has sold over 25 million copies since its initial release).

More than just advice on how you can change your habits for the better, Covey also outlines how to take those crucial next steps and capitalize on the opportunities that these changes can afford you. It’s wisdom that’s valued by business professionals, educators and parents the world over.

 

“Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”

Author: Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence is often what separates moments strong decision-making from mediocre ones. How and why managers and entrepreneurs who operate at a high level of emotional intelligence succeed where their less-apt brethren fail is the focus of Daniel Goleman’s incredibly insightful book that, in its own words, redefines what it means to be smart.

Using examples based in psychology and neuroscience, Goleman outlines the five indispensable skills that make up emotional intelligence, as well as how they translate into personal and professional growth. In times where fractured online communication is the norm, mastering emotional intelligence is more crucial than ever before.

 

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“The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses”

Author: Eric Ries

It’s a well-known myth fact that, without the proper knowledge absorption, over 50% of businesses fail within their first five years of existence. The bigger question is why – how come so many passionate entrepreneurs weren’t able to turn their golden ideas into viable products or services that consumers love?

One of the secrets is continuous innovation, a concept explored by Eric Ries in fascinating detail. It involves what he calls “validated learning,” short-yet-thorough experimentation periods and other product development practices that come across as counter-intuitive. However, it’s all in service of a higher purpose: making your business as lean and efficient as possible.

 

“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't”

Author: Jim Collins

Respected business writer Jim Collins’ study attempts to get to the heart of an elusive answer that I’ve hinted at a few times already: How come some companies achieve greatness while others don’t? What’s the secret sauce you need to make it happen?

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, but Collins looks at successful companies in a more rigorous way than other authors might, examining both how they made the giant leaps that solidified them as giants in their respective industries and how they sustained it over 15 years or more. From leadership dos and don’ts to how to avoid the “curse of competence,” this is a must-read.

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“Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves”

Author: Andrew Ross Sorkin

The 2008 financial crisis was one of the most troubling economic events in world history. Andrew Ross Sorkin’s detailed account of how and why it went down is a valuable read, clearly demonstrating how some of the worst business decisions are fueled by ego, greed, fear and frantic self-preservation.

If you can, get your hands on the reissued version of the book, which contains a new forward from the author. It pulls back the curtain even more on the politicking that went on behind the scenes and how drama-driven some of the important plot points. As notes on a scandal, it’s extremely compelling.

 

“The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron”

Authors: Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

Speaking of scandal, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also give a shout out to Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind’s thorough dissection of Enron, the 90’s darling who went down in one of the most infamous blazes of glory in history.

Like so many transcendent business books, “The Smartest Guys in the Room” still has a lot to offer entrepreneurs as a cautionary tale. Again, you’ll want to get yourself a copy of the latest anniversary edition, which contains a new clear-eyed afterword detailing why Enron’s story still matters to business managers everywhere.

 

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“Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business”

Author: Jay Conrad Levinson

Marketing is an integral part of any business growth strategy and can be the secret weapon that helps different companies develop a devoted consumer audience. Since its publication in 1983 Jay Levinson’s book has been updated with the times and become a springboard for business owners to think about their own approaches to connecting with clients.

The author brings lots of insight to the table, including tips on how to market online, use podcasts and automated marketing to generate leads, cultivate return business and much more. With so many “expert opinions” on marketing-related topics out there, it’s nice to get back to basics with this essential addition to any entrepreneurs personal library.

 

“Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs”

Author: Ken Kocienda

Similar to marketing, design, especially as it relates to the look and feel of your online presence, has never been more important to business success. A Wall Street Journal bestseller, Ken Kocienda outlines Apple’s creative process, and what made the ideas and methods behind it so special.

He delves into the inextricable link between software and product development, as well as how struggle and collaboration ultimately led to Apple’s range of devices, including the iPhone and iPad, ended up conquering the consumer tech sphere. The book also serves as an insightful story about how a small group of people came up with and executed ideas that changed the world.

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“Leap: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied”

Author: Howard Yu

At some point, every business owner lies awake at night, unable to shake the fear of competitors and how they might copy their product or service. Worse still, those comeptitors can potentially bring that carbon copy to market and (gulp!) undercut the original price. Luckily, Howard Yu’s book servies as a perfect remedy for those anxious, giving you the tools you need to succeed through strong management and consistent innovation.

The book uses case studies to vividly illustrate impressive leaps and less-than-impressive failures that either made or broke brands who, at one time or another, all had potential. From P&G’s move away from handcrafted products and towards mass production to the creativity and connectivity behind China’s mammoth social media app WeChat, there’s a nice variety of eras and industries included here.

 

“Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike”

Author: Phil Knight

Finally, I have one of the best business memoirs to come along in a very long time – Phil Knight’s story of the creation and rise of Nike, which has grown to become one of the world’s most recognized brands. Starting with a $50 loan from his father, Knight shares the story of Nike’s early days as a startup and how he made those all-important first sales out of the trunk of his car.

Both funny and inspiring, Knight’s memoir is a perfect example of how trial-and-error, persistence and the will to succeed powered Nike into the business stratosphere. Risky decisions, soul-crushing setbacks, satisfying triumphs and more detail how a man with a bold vision and the power of sports came to enjoy unprecedented success in a highly-competitive industry.

 

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