When I entered my first business venture, I acted very confidently. Well, I was 16 at the time. Each sentence that I spoke assured everyone around me, but I wasn’t able to assure myself because I had absolutely little to no idea of what I was doing. I still believed I will get it once I start, but I genuinely felt I had no idea what I was talking about.
Starting a business is a huge step, and I remember finding it overwhelming.
In retrospect, it would have been helpful for me to read some of the best books for starting a business. Guidance from those who had been there before me would have saved me from the common mistakes I was bound to repeat. However, I didn’t realize how much critical assistance that would have been.
The books on the list below have been recommended through interviews and surveys with successful entrepreneurs. They have been through the early stages of a business, and their stories share insightful lessons.
There are five primary things that I could have learned from these books:
- How to handle behind-the-scenes financials
- How to manage my time and investment more effectively
- Where to go for legal advice and information
- What to do when I hit a roadblock
- How to balance early profits with growth
Of course, those aren’t the only lessons that I needed to learn. If I had taken the time to learn just those five simple lessons from the best books for starting a business, though, I would have handled my early failures with more grace and less loss.
I’m speaking from experience when I say that starting a business is a complicated matter, but it doesn’t have to be a beast that you tackle alone. Take with you the knowledge that entrepreneurs have been willing to share and then blaze your own path. With that kind of support, through the following books, you are sure to succeed!
Before going down to see the list of books, you can see the most interesting things I’ve learned in the first year of growing MavenHut, the business we sold for an amount with lots of zeros: Story of MavenHut: 11 Things I learned Starting a Gaming Company and Raising $700,000 in the First Year
Best Books for Starting a Business
I read this book at a time when Udemy was rapidly growing—over the 18 months where we went from 30 to 200 people. It was helpful to read about Horowitz's challenges, worries, and triumphs when addressing the same types of issues at a similar stage of growth. There are so many big decisions you need to make where there's just no clear-cut, right or wrong answer. There are a lot of gray areas. You gather information from your team, but the hard decisions rest with you. This book helped me realize that while I needed to carefully and objectively consider feedback, I was responsible for making a decision in the end—even when it was an unpopular one.
Online Business from Scratch: Launch Your Own Seven-Figure Internet Business by Creating and Selling Information Online
Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business
This book lays out a framework to help any startup brainstorm ways to gain more customer traction.
Ben Horowitz recently published another book called "What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture".
When we were starting MavenHut, company culture was one of the things I struggled with.
I mean, I worked 70 hours/week, should my employees do the same (no, of course not!). My business parteners were working weekends as well during the early days of the company, I didn't want to. But people say that the leaders of the company should be part of the culture. So?
I just found out about the book so I only read the first few chapters, but it goes some ways I didn't think about.
The first part of the book is about the slave rebellion that created, in the end, Haiti. What is so interesting about this? Well, it's apparently the only slave rebellion in the world that was successful in creating a new country. How is it connected to company culture? I have no idea yet.
There's, apparently, another chapter on a prison gang. And another on Genghis Khan.
If you are confused, you're not the only one. But since I trust the author, I'm sure it will make sense at some point.
Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreams
In a 2009 interview with [email protected], he explained how Anderson's ideas were helping Haier transition from traditional manufacturer to information-based service provider.
Over the years he’s [Tony Hsieh] recommended well over 20 business books — including his own, the 2010 bestseller Delivering Happiness and you can always find what he’s currently reading atop his cluttered desk. Start with Why is amogst those titles.
The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage
As a general rule, most new memoirs are mediocre and most business memoirs are even worse. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is an exception to that rule in every way and as a result, was one of my favorite books of the year and favorite business books ever. I started reading it while on the runway of a flight and figured I’d read a few pages before opening my laptop and working. Instead, my laptop stayed in my bag during the flight and I read almost the entire book in one extended sitting. Ostensibly the memoir of the founder of Nike, it’s really the story of a lost kid trying to find meaning in his life and it ends with him creating a multi-billion dollar company that changes sports forever. I’m not sure if Knight used a ghostwriter (the acknowledgements are unclear) but his personal touches are all over the book—and the book itself is deeply personal and authentic. The afterward is an incredibly moving reflection of a man looking back on his life. I loved this book. It ends just as Nike is starting to turn into the behemoth it would become, so I hold out hope that there may be more books to follow.
The Republic of Tea: The Story of the Creation of a Business, as Told Through the Personal Letters of Its Founders
I really enjoyed Brad Stone's The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. Anyone who wants to better understand the dynamics of disruption or just gain a better understanding of the website we've come to love, must read this book.
The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you
Here are some of the guests and some of their books, in no particular order. I recommend all of the below books. If I didn't like a book, I wouldn't have them on the show.
Like Charlie Munger once said: “I’ve long believed that a certain system - which almost any intelligent person can learn - works way better than the systems most people use [to understand the world]. What you need is a latticework of mental models in your head. And, with that system, things gradually fit together in a way that enhances cognition. Just as multiple factors shape every system, multiple mental models from a variety of disciplines are necessary to understand that system". You can read this book to start building a "latticework of mental models in your head".
Question: What books would you recommend to young people to be prepared for the future workplaces?
Answer: So many! So many by Seth Godin (Linchpin, The Icarus Deception, Purple Cow) Essentialism by Greg McKeown, Deep Work by Cal Newport, The Choice by Og Mandino, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, No More Dreaded Mondays and 48 Days To The Work You Love by Dan Miller, The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran, Will It Fly by Pat Flynn, The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews, QBQ by John Miller, The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Wow, there are so many more, but that’s a start.
Pinker is at his best when he analyzes historic trends and uses data to put the past into context. I was already familiar with a lot of the information he shares—especially about health and energy—but he understands each subject so deeply that he’s able to articulate his case in a way that feels fresh and new.
I love how he’s willing to dive deep into primary data sources and pull out unexpected signs of progress. I tend to point to things like dramatic reductions in poverty and childhood deaths, because I think they’re such a good measure of how we’re doing as a society. Pinker covers those areas, but he also looks at more obscure topics.
Here are five of my favorite facts from the book that show how the world is improving:
- 1. You’re 37 times less likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than you were at the turn of the century—and that’s not because there are fewer thunderstorms today. It’s because we have better weather prediction capabilities, improved safety education, and more people living in cities.
- 2. Time spent doing laundry fell from 11.5 hours a week in 1920 to an hour and a half in 2014. This might sound trivial in the grand scheme of progress. But the rise of the washing machine has improved quality of life by freeing up time for people—mostly women—to enjoy other pursuits. That time represents nearly half a day every week that could be used for everything from binge-watching Ozark or reading a book to starting a new business.
- 3. You’re way less likely to die on the job. Every year, 5,000 people die from occupational accidents in the U.S. But in 1929—when our population was less than two-fifths the size it is today—20,000 people died on the job. People back then viewed deadly workplace accidents as part of the cost of doing business. Today, we know better, and we’ve engineered ways to build things without putting nearly as many lives at risk.
- 4. The global average IQ score is rising by about 3 IQ points every decade. Kids’ brains are developing more fully thanks to improved nutrition and a cleaner environment. Pinker also credits more analytical thinking in and out of the classroom. Think about how many symbols you interpret every time you check your phone’s home screen or look at a subway map. Our world today encourages abstract thought from a young age, and it’s making us smarter.
- 5. War is illegal. This idea seems obvious. But before the creation of the United Nations in 1945, no institution had the power to stop countries from going to war with each other. Although there have been some exceptions, the threat of international sanctions and intervention has proven to be an effective deterrent to wars between nations.
Q: What is one must-read book for business leaders?
A: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Business and Life by Charles Duhigg.
The funny thing is that the books that had the biggest impact (like my Verne’s favourite) are not necessarily the best books, objectively speaking. They were good enough to present a new worldview that I was not aware of. Timing probably was more important than their intrinsic literary qualities. They “managed” to fall into my lap at the right time. Such a book was Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, a mediocre book by my standards of today, but deeply inspirational by the ones from yesterday.