10 Great Autobiographies From the Brightest Minds in Business

The best way to get ahead in business? Learn from others with these personal looks into their motivations, successes, failures and lessons learned.

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By Sujan Patel

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The best way to learn about business is to listen to those who have achieved the same types of goals you've set for yourself. But you don't have to have a direct connection to Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or any other mogul to get this insider insight. Autobiographies give a personal look at these successful people's motivations, successes, failures and lessons learned.

Here are 10 of the best autobiographies from the brightest minds in business:

1. Miracles Happen

In her autobiography, Mary Kay Ash describes the principles that helped her build one of the largest cosmetics retailers operating today. Her book covers everything from the importance of expecting great things to dreaming big to paying close attention to her target market.

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A champion of women, a savvy business executive and a first-rate marketer, Mary Kay Ash's company is a legacy of her life and vision.

2. Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

Not every highly successful entrepreneur set out to conquer the business world. Yvon Chouinard, for example, began his business career as a highly skilled outdoorsman whose passions included mountain climbing and environmental causes.

Let My People Go Surfing is the incredible story of how he leveraged these passions to design innovative sports equipment and found one of the most environmentally-responsible companies in the world.

3. Iacocca: An Autobiography

Named the 18th greatest CEO of all time, Lee Iacocca was a man who changed the automobile industry for the better and brought Chrysler back from the brink of destruction. Born to Italian immigrants, his career started at Ford -- until he clashed with Henry Ford II and was fired in 1978. Despite this conflict, he was quickly courted by Chrysler, which he rebuilt from the ground up.

Iacocca is his story in his own words -- from his childhood in Pennsylvania to his celebrity status as a business icon.

4. Direct from Dell: Strategies that Revolutionized an Industry

Dell founder Michael Dell started his PC company in the same way that many other technology companies begin -- in his dorm room at college. With less than $1,000, he built his fledgling company into a powerhouse that transformed the way PCs were manufactured, purchased and delivered.

In Direct from Dell, he tells both the story of the company's growth and his own management strategies.

5. The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company

The HP Way describes how Hewlett and Packard met at college and decided after graduation to found a company together in the one-car garage workshop that's now known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley. From tossing a coin to determine the company name to defining their own management strategies, this autobiography is an inside look at a company that chose to do things its own way.

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6. Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

Starbucks is known for its ubiquity, but its "shop on every street corner" success didn't come out of the blue. In Pour Your Heart Into It, CEO Howard Schultz discusses the customer-service principles that made Starbucks a household name. In addition, he shares the wisdom he's learned and the techniques he's used to keep Starbucks focused on customer and employee satisfaction, despite its staggering growth.

7. Sam Walton: Made In America

Love it or hate it, Walmart is one of the most successful retail businesses in American history. In Made in America, the chain's founder details his company's growth from a single dime store in Arkansas to the retail giant it is today, describing his successes and mistakes in an approachable, down-home writing style.

8. Jack: Straight from the Gut

Jack Welch is the man responsible for building General Electric into a multinational conglomerate that touches everything from lightbulbs to commercial lending and leasing. Straight from the Gut is Welch's engaging first-hand story, starting with his childhood and moving through his meteoric rise through GE's ranks. His autobiography discusses his career, business mistakes and successes, all in his trademark, no-nonsense style.

9. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way

The playfully naughty title of this autobiography perfectly captures the personality of its author, billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson. Losing My Virginity continues in the same vein, a unique and sometimes outrageous look inside the life and business of Branson and his cofounders. A perfect example of how an ambitious company can disrupt established but complacent industries, Branson's autobiography is both entertaining and inspirational.

10. Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew the Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion

From being fired to building a multi-billion dollar business, Built From Scratch gives a first-hand look at the story of Home Depot founders, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank. An excellent example of grit and determination, the story of Home Depot is one that will inspire all entrepreneurs to keep going -- no matter what.

Have another autobiography that should be added to this list? Share your recommendations in the comments section below!

Related: The 5 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read, or Read Again, in 2015

Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

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