You’ve probably heard all the worn-out expressions:
Readers are leaders.
You've got to be reading more!
Man, you really have to read this book.
Let me recommend a book to you.
You mean you haven't read this book yet?
Entrepreneurs and business leaders know that they need to be reading. And, yes, most of us probably should be reading more than we do. But here’s the question that we need to answer: What books to do we read?
Selecting and absorbing the right books is the first thing we have to do. As it turns out, that’s not easy to do. Given the vast number of self-published books, there aren’t any specific numbers on how many books are published each year, let alone business books intended for entrepreneurs. We can safely say, however, that every year there are hundreds of thousands of English language books published: Amazon’s “entrepreneurship” bookstore provides a list of 37,976 books, which would require a few lifetimes to read them all.
My shortlist is a bit briefer. Here are eight of the very best books on entrepreneurship I've read. Any book’s status as very best is, admittedly, an individualistic judgment call. But I know that these have helped me -- and thousands of other entrepreneurs. So, from one developing entrepreneur to another, here they are:
1. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It by Michael Gerber
The “E-myth” of the title, or “entrepreneurial myth,” goes like this: Someone who starts a business is probably qualified to manage and grow that business. In reality, most people who start a business don’t have a clue what they’re doing. They become frustrated. They fail.
Gerber points out that most entrepreneurs are actually technicians -- people who know how to make stuff or fix stuff. But when it comes to building a business, the “entrepreneur” part fails. And so does the small business. The E-Myth Revisited uses the structure of a story to set forth powerful business-building information -- how to work in your business, not on it, how to hire the right people and how to build a strong foundation for a business that will ultimately thrive.
Peter Thiel is eminently qualified to write a book on startups. He co-founded PayPal, Palantir, Mithril Capital Management and Valar Ventures. Zero to One explains that breakthrough businesses can and should be built. A true breakthrough business doesn't just add more of the same, but builds something truly new; that’s the "zero to one" that an entrepreneur should pursue.
Thiel explains how it’s done.
Every business needs a methodology for getting stuff done, for successful collaboration and scalable management techniques. Scrum is the answer; it describes a simple methodology for breaking down problems into manageable chunks, getting those chunks completed in a timely way and reviewing the work that has been completed.
Scrum is offered as a “how-to” book, but there’s a lot of great data and tantalizing storytelling here which makes it the perfect business book.
4. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington
If there’s one thing that entrepreneurs need more of, it’s sleep. Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post Media Group, explains that sleep is part of the third metric of success, which includes: total well-being, wisdom, intuition, wonder and compassion.
Too often, entrepreneurs are focused on acquiring money or building power. Thrive is a call to focus on the things that really matter. This book will help any entrepreneur develop a balanced view of building a business, and ensure that she doesn’t burn out along the way.
The One Thing explains how entrepreneurs can dial back the busy clutter in their lives in order to focus on their business. Creating a laser-like focus on a business goal doesn’t mean denying yourself family, friends or a full life. Instead, it means articulating your vision for success and your method of attaining it. Keller draws on his own success and experience to explain exactly how to do this.
6. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy
Entrepreneurs aren’t beyond being helped by motivational shticks. Eat That Frog! is certainly motivational, but it’s also extremely tactical -- providing a numbered list of actual methods for getting stuff done. It’s settled fact that you’ll emerge from reading this book with a renewed sense of passion and vigor for your business, and the ability to absolutely nail it.
It behooves every entrepreneur to accomplish enormous amounts of stuff. The vast majority of people don't accomplish enormous amounts of stuff. Why not? Lack of action. Cardone’s premise is that the only successful level of action is 10x -- massive action.
This book explains how you can throw more energy, focus, determination, willpower and resolve into your calling and, ultimately, your success.
Many entrepreneurs succumb to the myth that they can somehow do everything. Unfortunately, this is neither realistic nor healthy. Furthermore, it’s not the way to build a successful business.
McKeown’s point is this: “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
Essentialism will enable the entrepreneur to peel back those life activities and demands which are unnecessary, unwise and unproductive.
In the maelstrom of startup life, entrepreneurs should take time to read. Whether that means audiobooks on the commute to work, or the morning luxury of a book in one hand, coffee in the other, it pays to make time to enrich your mind.
Not every book is worth your time, but this select list of books will become part of your toolkit, and enable you to build a business that is worth the cost.
Related: 5 Tips to Read 100 Books a Year