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6 Books That Helped Me as an Entrepreneur Here are a few familiar books and some hidden gems that offer timely insights and perspectives for entrepreneurs this year.

By Anthony Smith Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Christian Horz/EyeEm | Getty Images

As an entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time working on new ideas and business, solving problems, and creating something out of nothing. Sometimes the path is pretty straightforward. Other times it may feel like you are up against something no one has ever gone through or solved before. Regardless of where you are on your path, it's always helpful to pick up some wisdom, practical information, or just a different perspective from your fellow entrepreneurs. With that in mind, here's a shortlist of titles—a few familiar ones and some hidden gems—that offer timely insights and perspectives for entrepreneurs in 2020.

1. The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun

Its whimsical title notwithstanding, the book provides helpful insights on restructuring companies for completely remote work. It's an easy read that takes you behind-the-scenes at (Automattic, Inc), as the company challenged traditional work years ago and created a highly productive all-remote global team. The author shares real-life stories and observational insights into what it takes to build a work culture and drive success with remote employees. You won't get the nitty-gritty operational side of managing remote teams, but you'll glean a few ideas from Berkun's personal leadership experience and lessons learned, including why you have to find and define team culture from within instead of replicating someone else's practices.

Related: The Best Business Book Ever Written, According To Bill Gates And Warren Buffett

2. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr

In his book, Doerr explains the hugely successful Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method which he learned from Andy Grove, a longtime CEO of Intel and then implemented at a number of organizations, including Google. OKR is a simple goal-setting framework that consists of four pillars: focus, align, track, and stretch. It's a quick read with interesting inside stories that show how OKR can help companies, big and small, to focus on what matters the most and execute. Read this book if you have a bias for action and are looking for a clear and easy way to motivate and align your team, measure progress, and reach goals.

3. Manufacturing Demand by David Lewis

From sales and marketing alignment to revenue-generating ideas to marketing automation—this book covers a lot of data-driven marketing ground. Lewis, CEO of DemandGen, discusses five key elements of demand generation and how to implement them: buyer personas, the demand funnel, lead scoring, lead nurturing, and analytics. You don't need to be a techie to take advantage of modern marketing technology and make data-driven decisions. Whether you are a business owner or marketer, you'll find the tips and case studies helpful in developing demand generation programs and measuring results. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to sell products and services in our digital age.

Related: 5 Takeaways From Netflix CEO's New Book

4. Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon

According to Moon, in order to differentiate your product or brand from all others, you need to stop imitating your competitors and start innovating. Moon debunks traditional competitive analysis and comparative metrics, claiming they've created conformity and "competitive herd" which, in turn, makes it hard for companies to stand out in customers' minds. Read this book if you're ready to break away from the herd and do something truly different, even drastic. Even though the book is not a how-to guide, you'll find a few specific ideas that will help you to create your own differentiation strategy, appeal to customers who have a ton of choices, and think of ways to dramatically change your business growth rate.

5. Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea Into a Global Business by Mikkel Svane

This is a story of how three guys in Copenhagen founded Zendesk to escape their corporate jobs and make customer service less painful. Svane (one of the founders) shares their journey from Copenhagen to San Francisco Bay Area, full of personal and business hardships, along with his unfiltered insights into what it takes to build and run a high-growth company. Learn why Svane doesn't glorify failure, is not afraid of boring product ideas, and believes in giving back to the community. Even if you can't relate to Svane's experience as a tech company founder, you'll find his direct style refreshing and the entire story engaging and inspiring. This book is also a great read for people in your life, whether they be family or friends, who may not quite understand what it means to be an entrepreneur, but want to know more about your work.

Related: 61 Books Elon Musk Thinks You Should Read

6. The House That Race Built edited by Wahneema Lubiano

The book is a compilation of essays by prominent writers and scholars, including Toni Morrison and Cornel West, on race, society, power, and culture. You'll get a historical perspective on legal, political, and cultural constructs that preceded the events of 2020 summer. Regardless of your background, these stories will help you to better understand the history of racial injustice in the United States and its impact on generations of Black Americans and the society in general. As an entrepreneur, you might be absorbed by your business and projects most of the time, but if there's one thing we've all learned this year, it's that "we are all in this together" and each play a part. These stories will challenge you to do your part as a leader, and do it with an awareness of people's unique experiences, humility, and authenticity.

Anthony Smith

Founder & CEO

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, Anthony is a lifelong techie with a passion for all things startup. He built Insightly CRM to help modern businesses of all sizes and industries build lifelong customer relationships, compete in the digital consumer age, and grow faster than ever before.

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