If you’re thinking of starting a business or are already knee deep in your new venture, you don't necessarily have to go to business school.
You can learn from the many who have come before you, taking the road to entrepreneurship and finding success. Some of the most eye-opening and inspirational business books (and audiobooks) were written by successful entrepreneurs, businesspeople and innovators who were once in your shoes.
Read the best business books for their takeaways and learn from the mistakes of others so you can start, run and grow your small business, step-by-step.
"The 4-Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferriss
If you feel like there are never enough hours in the day to finish all of your business tasks, then this book is for you. In "The 4-Hour Workweek," Timothy Ferriss shows budding entrepreneurs how to hack and reframe life so they can get more done in less time.
The book includes tips to create a luxury lifestyle design, such as outsourcing tasks to virtual assistants overseas for a low cost. Ferriss also tells readers how he went from making $40,000 per year and working 80 hours per week to making $40,000 per month and working four hours per week.
This book helps entrepreneurs who are struggling to hit their goals while working overtime. By making small and strategic changes to the way you live your life, Ferriss’s book can show you how to manage your time wisely so you achieve maximum results.
Timothy Ferriss is a serial entrepreneur, a New York Times best-selling author and an angel investor to companies like Facebook, Twitter and Uber. Some of his business ventures include investing in or advising for companies like Shopify, Evernote and TaskRabbit.
He’s written several books using his rapid-learning technique, including "The 4-Hour Body" and "The 4-Hour Chef".
"Tribes" by Seth Godin
This book helps entrepreneurs find the right community and the right target market for their business and leads them to success.
Godin explains how the world is made up of different tribes: religious, ethnic and political, for example. The internet has removed any physical barriers so people from anywhere can join forces online and grow their tribes.
Godin shows readers how they can lead these tribes and the tribes within their business, like employees, customers, prospects, investors and more.
If you’re an entrepreneur who is struggling to identify your target market or not having success in enticing them to take action, then this book is a good choice for you. "Tribes" will help small business owners create communities — or tribes — of people who are interested in what the business has to offer.
Seth Godin is a successful entrepreneur and the founder of Squidoo and Yoyodyne. He has written several books on business, including "This is Marketing" and "All Marketers are Liars".
Seth’s Blog is one of the most popular and respected marketing blogs, where he shares his insights on running a successful business.
"Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill
One of the best books on business is "Think and Grow Rich".
Though it was published during the Great Depression, the lessons in this book are still relevant almost 100 years later. To write this book, Hill interviewed around 500 successful businesspeople and millionaires, including Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
Using the insight he gleaned from his sources, Hill then compiled a series of 13 principles to finding success and wealth.
Often considered more of a self-help book than a business book, "Think and Grow Rich" is for entrepreneurs who are looking for timeless wisdom. The crux of the book is that if you can suppress your negative thoughts, you will have more energy to focus on your long-term goals. This is Hill’s advice on becoming prosperous.
Napoleon Hill is considered the pioneer of the self-help genre. He is also the author of "The Law of Success," a multi-volume series on using the power of your mind to achieve your goals.
"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie
This book is a must-read for entrepreneurs who struggle with networking and influencing people to take action.
When you run a small business, being able to work well with partners, prospects, employees and investors is part of the job. However, not everyone has the social skills or know-how for that side of entrepreneurship.
In this book, Carnegie provides practical advice on turning new acquaintances into friends and influencing them to see your point of view.
If you’re a business owner who needs help winning over clients or improving your relationships with employees and customers, this book can help you improve those skills.
Dale Carnegie was an author and teacher who focused on developing courses for self-improvement, sales and interpersonal skills.
"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey
Covey’s popular book is considered one of the most influential business books ever written.
It’s filled with advice on how to be an impactful leader and find business success. The book is based on the idea that one’s character influences the way one acts. If we can improve our character, we can improve our lives.
The first three habits in the book focus on moving from dependence to independence.
Once you have achieved self-mastery, you can then move on to traits that improve interdependence, or dealing well with others. With this winning combination, entrepreneurs are poised to do well in their business ventures.
This book is best for businesspeople who want to improve their habits when dealing with themselves and when dealing with others.
Stephen Covey was an authority on leadership as well as an organizational consultant and teacher. He was the co-founder and vice chairman of FranklinCovey, a global training firm.
"To Sell Is Human" by Daniel Pink
Whether you have a full sales team at your small business or you’re the only employee, selling is something at which all small business owners need to be good.
Sales don’t always have to look like a transaction that happens at a cash register. Entrepreneurs have to pitch investors or convince employees to meet business goals.
"To Sell is Human" shows small business owners how they can more effectively “move people” and make the sale.
The goal is no longer to always be closing the sale but rather enticing people to take action. This practical and prescriptive book provides details on different forms of elevator pitches and how to understand other people’s perspectives.
It also shows entrepreneurs how they can make their message more persuasive in order to get others to take action.
Daniel Pink is a New York Times best-selling author and television host. He is also the author of "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," which teaches readers to better understand the concepts of motivation and persuasion.
"The E-Myth Revisited" by Michael E. Gerber
The entrepreneurial myth, according to Gerber, is that most people who run businesses are actually entrepreneurs.
In reality, most people who start a business don’t have the tangible business skills required to find success. Often, entrepreneurs are technicians who are specialized in the offerings of their business but not in running the business itself.
If you’re a small business owner or budding entrepreneur with limited real-world business experience, then Gerber’s book may prove to be a helpful tool that sets you up for success.
In the book, Gerber separates the important distinction of working in your business from working on your business.
He also walks readers through the life cycle of a business from infancy to maturity, pointing out how to avoid growing pains. The book provides a regimented plan and explains business buzzwords so any businessperson can understand the fundamentals and grow the venture.
Michael E. Gerber is a small business consultant and author. He is the co-founder and chairman of the Michael E. Gerber Companies, which help develop and create startups in every industry and economy.
"Start With Why" by Simon Sinek
Many entrepreneurs and small business owners struggle with inspiring their employees and customers. "Start With Why" shows readers how they can influence their communities by communicating the big why behind their products and services.
In this book, Sinek explores the question of why some businesses are more successful than others.
How can these businesses be more innovative and profitable than their competitors? How come some businesses have legions of loyal customers and lifelong employees while others don’t? For Sinek, this all has to do with the why behind the business.
If a customer, partner, investor or employee doesn’t fully understand the why behind the product, service or idea, he won’t be motivated or persuaded to buy into it.
For people to fully commit, they need to understand the reasoning. Sinek shows entrepreneurs how to communicate this more effectively through his framework of "the golden circle".
Simon Sinek is a best-selling author, motivational speaker and business leader. He teaches businesses of all types — from startups to Fortune 50 corporations — about what it takes to be successful.
He is also the author of "Leaders Eat Last" and "Together is Better," which focus on building a brighter future for humanity through strong leadership.
"Good to Great" by Jim Collins
Not all businesses start off with a bang.
In many cases, mediocre companies can become rising stars in the business world. If you’re an entrepreneur trying to understand how your business can get to the next level of success, then "Good to Great" is required reading.
To write this book, Collins embarked on a study to identify how businesses achieve greatness.
He pitted companies against tough standards: The business had to maintain successful results for 15 years. His research team looked at 28 businesses to find the answer to why some companies excel and others don’t.
In "Good to Great", one of the best business books of our time, Collins explains what kind of leadership is required to take a company to the top, what kind of discipline a team needs in order to achieve greatness and how radical change isn’t always the answer.
This book is perfect for those who value the findings of research studies and want to add more strategies to their business arsenal.
Jim Collins is a writer and teacher, approaching business from an academic perspective.
He has spent over 25 years researching businesses and learning about what causes their successes and failures. Collins has authored several books, including "Built to Last," which looks at what it takes to build an enduring business.
"The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries
Starting a new small business comes with many uncertainties and risks.
Ries’s book helps entrepreneurs mitigate and plan for those risks while working more proficiently and effectively. "The Lean Startup" teaches business owners how to use their capital more efficiently while being creative in the process.
It’s a great choice for business owners who want to be agile in a quickly changing market.
The book shows readers how they can shorten production cycles to get to the market quicker.
Plus, it focuses on reviewing metrics that make a difference, in opposition to vanity metrics that don’t give a clear picture of how the business is growing. Eric Ries is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. He advises businesses of all sizes on business strategy.
To keep up with these author-entrepreneurs in their current and future ventures, you can follow them on social media for extra insight as they themselves grow, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street.
- Square: 10 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read
- Lifehack: 10 Great Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read
- Amazon: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
- Amazon: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
- Amazon: Think and Grow Rich
- Amazon: How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Amazon: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
- QuickMBA: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Amazon: To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
- Amazon: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
- Amazon: Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't
- Amazon: The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.