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The Best Books on How to Start a Business: 11 Must-Reads for Entrepreneurs

Taking the seeds of ideas and using them to create radically successful businesses is a daunting prospect, but the good news is that there are thousands of pioneers who have gone before you. You can learn from both their successes as well as their failures. 

In the world of entrepreneurship, there’s always someone willing to offer you advice on starting your own business, from small business owners who have cornered their niche, to executives from big corporations who know how to play the game. 

A good place to start is with a business book for new entrepreneurs, which can help you understand the challenges that lay ahead and plan a course of action. 

In this post, we introduce you to 11 publications that we’ve found helpful in navigating the cut-throat world of enterprise. While the best book on how to start a business is different for everyone, depending on their vision and needs, we think you’ll find something on this list you’ll find helpful. 

1. The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki is an American venture capitalist who has a specialism in marketing. This is the second edition of his book on starting a business, which has been updated for the current world of social media marketing and crowdfunding. 

This book is targeted to and specifically helpful for new entrepreneurs starting out in the business world for the first time. There are no shortcuts here, as the book really celebrates the hard-won successes entrepreneurs create when they work hard and with focus. 

It not only offers important lessons about the tools at your disposal in the current business climate, but also informs how you can handle the struggles of becoming your own boss and offers tips on how to grow into a great leader.    

The Art of the Start 2.0 is the ultimate entrepreneurship handbook. Kawasaki’s generous wisdom, tips, and humor reflect his successes and failures. We can all benefit from his insights.”

Arianna Huffington

2. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup is less a book than it is an overarching philosophy for how to build a successful business that makes it through the first, most challenging years. 

Unlike most business books, The Lean Startup starts by acknowledging an uncomfortable truth: most startups fail and most entrepreneurs will spend their careers chasing dreams they’ll never attain. 

Eric Ries condemns the haphazard approach to growth taken by many startups, and instead promotes a lean approach based on efficient use of capital, scientific experimentation, and creativity. He recommends that today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically more efficient and resilient businesses. 

This book is particularly helpful for creative entrepreneurs whose own business idea hinges on the development of a new product. 

The theory of lean startups is borrowed from lean manufacturing, where expedited development cycles and measurable progress help shorten the route to building a profitable business. 

I imagine Lean Startup principles applied to government programs, to healthcare, and to solving the world’s great problems. It’s ultimately an answer to the question ‘How can we learn more quickly what works, and discard what doesn’t?”  

Tim O’Reilly

3. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

Simply put, this is a book about successful entrepreneurs who started their own business with a minimum of investment, often as little as $100. This is not a business book about big ideas, but rather a practical guide to starting a new business on a tight budget. 

Chris Guillebeau started by identifying 1,500 small business owners who earn ver $50,000 from low initial investment. He then picked 50 of the most compelling and informative case studies to write up in this book. 

Because The $100 Startup uses real-world examples, it’s able to give precise dollar amounts and real timelines for launching a new venture. It’s perfect for any creative entrepreneur who wants to turn a personal passion into a revenue stream. 

However, keep in mind that just because Guillebeau goes into specifics his practical advice isn’t universally applicable. In fact, this is the perfect book to help get pretty much any new business idea off the ground. 

Thoughtful, funny, and compulsively readable, this guide shows how ordinary people can build solid livings, with independence and purpose, on their own terms.

Gretchen Rubin

4. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman

Starting a business is an exciting time full of potential and opportunities. The reality that The Founder’s Dilemmas highlights, however, is that this is also a time fraught with difficult decisions. 

Many founders need to decide whether to bring in partners, how to attract investment, or how to manage their human resources. Getting these decisions wrong can plant irreconcilable issues in the foundations of your company. 

Drawing essential insights from the many lessons learned across a decade of research, Wasserman offers advice on how to approach these decisions in a manner that fosters success. The main takeaway? There are no easy answers. 

This isn’t necessarily a step-by-step guide to answer all the questions this book throws up, but it is a great resource to better navigate the early days of running businesses. It’ll give you more knowledge and new ideas to help you make the right decisions for your business. 

This book is essential reading for any entrepreneurs who don’t want to see their businesses fail thanks to poor decision-making. 

Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman is one of the writers and teachers who best captures the high stakes decisions that entrepreneurs face every day.

Scott Kirsner

5. Will It Fly?: How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money by Pat Flynn

Pat Flynn diagnoses one of the most crucial success limiting factors when it comes to starting a business: having a bad idea. Flynn hit you with straight talk which acknowledges that big profits only come to those whose business ideas are fit to purpose and properly pursued. 

Will it Fly walks you through the whole process of ideating, designing, conducting market research, testing, and launching your new idea in a way that helps make the most of your valuable resources. 

This is an essential business book for anyone hoping to launch a successful enterprise off the back of a new idea. If your business plan contains even one unproven concept, Will it Fly helps your stress test your idea before you launch. 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a book designed to put you off business, but rather to help you identify which of your plans are likely to lead to success early on. 

“Instead of just cheering you on, it will take you by the hand and show you exactly what you need to do before launching your business idea.”

Chris Guillebeau

6. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Master

Despite the controversy that surrounds his name and his personal disagreeability, Peter Thiel is undoubtedly one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. A founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook, it’s clear he knows a thing or two about starting a business success story. 

This book is all about building a business plan around fresh ideas and becoming a successful entrepreneur based on brand-new technologies. Thiel explains how great leaders inspire change not by copying others but by creating entirely new spaces for innovation. 

This book is for anyone who wants to build a new business that does something truly revolutionary. It’s about spotting potential in places people have missed. It’s about defining and creating your own success. 

This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.” 

Mark Zuckerberg

7. The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber

As with The Lean Startup, the E Myth is all about reality. It works to dispel the common assumptions and misconceptions around starting a business. 

The main focus of the book is on how those who have expertise in the technical side of a business won’t necessarily enjoy success starting a business themselves. Gerber details how even the most knowledgeable workers don’t necessarily make a good entrepreneur. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Gerber goes into great detail about building successful companies, and his step-by-step guide can be helpful to any aspiring small business owner hoping their venture will be the odd one that enjoys success.

E Myth Revisited is part self-help guide, part warning. 

Thanks to Gerber l have freed up over three hours a day, significantly increased my sales, more than doubled my bottom line, and been able to take my first vacation in four years.

Trish Lind

8. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek holds a passion for inspiring people. Since 2009, he’s spearheaded a movement to help people feel more inspired at work, and encourages those in business to focus on inspiring others around them. 

In Start with Why, Sinek tries to unpack why certain individuals and organizations tend to show more innovation and influence, and command more loyalty. In essence, he set out to discover the X factor which some businesses have in abundance but which many entrepreneurs lack. 

Looking at everyone from cultural figures to venture capitalists, from Steve Jobs to Martin Luther King, this book offers a blueprint for those starting a business who want to learn from the most successful individuals and organizations around. 

Start with Why is one of the most useful and powerful books I have read in years. Simple and elegant, it shows us how leaders should lead.” 

William Ury

9. Crushing It! How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence 一 and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk

While some accuse Gary Vaynerchuk’s self-styled philosophy of being reductive, simplistic, selective, anecdotal, and logically unsound, that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a four-time New York Times bestselling author. 

In Crushing It! Vaynerchuk introduces you to the idea of creating a persona around a brand based on the personality of the business owner. Unlike many of the other business books on this list, he focuses on influencer culture, and how to leverage it t drive your business growth. 

This is a battle-hardened guide to building a personal brand around small businesses which within it includes almost a month-by-month guide to growing your leader-focused business. 

Crushing It! is a must-have for all individuals who want to be the best at what they do.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

10. The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull

What makes one business fail while others succeed? Why do some people simply fail to live up to their job title? Why in business does it always seem that there are incompetent people in high positions?

In this classic business book from 1969, Laurence J. Peter lays out his theory of decline and incompetence, and explains why good workers can become bad managers. 

Not only does this book offer descriptions of incompetence that will be all too familiar to the modern business person, but it also offers practical advice on how to help make your organization resilient to the kind of failure that personal qualities can introduce. 

[The Peter Principle] has struck a throbbing public nerve… a minor cultural phenomenon and its title phrase, like Parkinson’s Law, is certain to enter the language.

Life magazine

11. Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential by Greg Crabtree

Let’s be honest, there’s an awful lot of mystique around starting a business, and the root of confusion and loss is often a failure to understand numbers, finance, and accounting. 

That’s why Greg Crabtree wrote Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits! as a guide for inexperienced business owners to both understand and look beyond the numbers that keep them up at night. 

Aimed at companies from startup to $5 million in revenue, Crabtree breaks down the most common financial mistakes in business and offers advice on how to avoid them. He’ll teach you how to simplify everything down to a one-page business plan. 

The title says it like it is. It’s simple. It’s around profits and other business metrics. And it’s a very down-to-earth approach for a down-to-earth businessman and women.” 

Bartosz Majewski

The more you read, the better your business 

If you take anything away from these titles, it should be that the world of business is accessible to anyone with the right knowledge and understanding. Hopefully, you’ll find a book in the list above that helps put you on the right path. 

Are you looking for inspiration for your next venture? Why not check out our blog post which offers tons of up-to-date business ideas for you to try. Alternatively, check out our suggestions for eCommerce books for entrepreneurs

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Duncan is obsessed with making website building and eCommerce accessible to everyone. He explains the best tools and the latest digital marketing trends in ways that are clear and engaging. His focus is on supporting the sustainable growth of small to medium-sized enterprises. When not writing, he enjoys deep sea fishing and endurance cycling.

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