If you want to start a business, you’ll need advice on where to start, what pitfalls to anticipate, and how best to spend your time and money to get your idea off the ground.
While you may be tempted to spring for classes, seminars, and training sessions, books are the most accessible and affordable way to start learning.
Whether you’re an aspiring tech entrepreneur or an artisan looking to sell your work, these are some of the most insightful books to read before you launch.
1. ‘The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything,’ by Guy Kawasaki
apitalist Guy Kawasaki breaks down important lessons for new business owners in an accessible, easy-to-follow guide.
He acknowledges that with the democratizing force of the internet, once-unassailable business lessons are now in question. But one key idea is timeless: The importance of focusing on key details in the beginning so mistakes don’t trip you up as your business grows. The book contains Kawasaki’s hard-won practical advice about all manner of topics, from marketing and social media to crowdfunding and cloud computing.
Amidst all this practical advice, Kawasaki helps readers internalize his advice that “entrepreneur is a state of mind, not a job title.”
2. ‘The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup,’ by Noam Wasserman
You can learn a lot by studying the experiences of founders who have gone before you. Noam Wasserman, a professor of clinical entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, takes a wide-ranging look at how founders succeed and fail.
Using real-world examples to make his points, Wasserman vividly illustrates why certain ways of approaching entrepreneurship are better than others. Throughout, he focuses his advice on figuring out when to maintain control and when to tap outside resources.
3. ‘Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works,’ by Melinda F. Emerson
Emerson, founder and CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, lays out how to get a business off the ground in a series of monthly steps.
This practical guide spells out the tasks you need to tackle to get your business off the ground, from reaching out to venture capitalists and planning a one-year marketing strategy to getting the right software and investing in graphic design.
If you are looking to go from 0 to 60 and want to know exactly how to make it work, this book is a great one to have on your shelf.
4. ‘The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses,’ by Eric Ries
Entrepreneur, blogger, and author Eric Ries wants business people to think differently. Out with the cumbersome business plan and in with nimble management, increased efficiencies, and rapid prototyping.
The management approach associated with the book, Ries’ Lean Startup methodology, has grown into somewhat of a movement, spurring organizations to look at their habitual practices with fresh eyes.
5. ‘Will It Fly? How to Know if Your New Business Idea Has Wings … Before You Take the Leap,’ by Thomas K. McKnight
McKnight has helped hundreds of businesses launch, and he draws on his experience to lay out a comprehensive checklist for determining whether your idea has legs.
The 44-point assessment covers everything from your mindset to your exit strategy, addressing such questions as whether you have proven customers and how stiff your competition is.
While launching a business can be thrilling, it can also be extremely stressful if you’re not properly prepared. This book will help prepare you.
6. ‘Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive,’ by Dorie Clark
It’s one thing to have a dream to be an entrepreneur, but quite another to learn the ropes, build a name for yourself, develop multiple revenue streams, and continue to attract new clients month in and month out.
Marketing and strategy expert Dorie Clark offers insightful advice and an effective plan for making your dreams a reality, paired with stories of successful entrepreneurs of all stripes. Like all of her books, this one is clearly written and compellingly argued — an eye-opener for those who dream of working for themselves.
7. ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook,’ by Gary Vaynerchuk
Marketing expert and New York Times bestselling author “Gary Vee” offers hard-hitting advice on how to get your voice heard online. The key is not to tell your customers what you want them to hear, but to figure out what they want and give it to them.
It’s not just about adding value by way of high-quality content, but targeting that content to specific people via specific social media platforms. Getting attention online requires an increasing amount of content tailoring, but if you know how to match your message to each platform, you’ll be ahead of your competition.
8. ’32 Ways to Be a Champion in Business,’ by Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson
Former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson has accomplished a lot since the end of his basketball career: He is CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE), a billion-dollar investment company, and has become a force in entrepreneurship by empowering urban communities via economic development.
His book shares practical steps for creating a successful business, such as making a business plan, building your brand, and hiring the right employees. The detailed content includes best practices and common missteps, anecdotes and case studies, and plenty of motivational rhetoric.
Johnson’s winning, positive attitude shines through on every page, which makes this book all the more entertaining.
9. ‘Setting The Table,’ by Danny Meyer
Danny Meyer is a successful restaurateur, and his book is partially a memoir of his life in the New York City dining scene, but his advice applies well to any businessperson.
Meyer lays out the most important lessons of hospitality, which also happen to be lessons in management. For example, hire employees not only for their skills, but also for their attitude and thoughtfulness. Be open and responsive to feedback from customers, critics, and your own staff.
Meyer’s advice is particularly applicable to customer service: Those who take the time to know the particulars of their customers can serve them best.
10. ‘Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential’ By Greg Crabtree
Crabtree takes the pain out of small business finance by using step-by-step instructions and many real-world examples.
The book illuminates key financial indicators and covers questions of human resources, taxes, and business growth, among many others. His key idea is that business owners should look at the bigger picture when it comes to finances.
Business owners who are wary of accounting should start in Crabtree’s capable hands.
11. ‘The One Page Business Plan for the Creative Entrepreneur,’ by Jim Horan
If it’s early in your entrepreneurial journey, a massive, complex business plans may be overkill. But it can still be extremely helpful to sketch out your business’s whys and hows. Author Jim Horan takes readers through simple exercises to help clarify their approach to their business in a concise document.
Horan argues that writing out a business plan — big or small — is particularly important when you’re going to be doing business with other people and/or using others’ money to operate. Once you get to that level of complexity, you don’t leave things to chance or impulse.
12. ‘Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless,’ by Jeffrey W. Hayzlett
Bloomberg Television host Jeffrey Hayzlett brings a simple and powerful message that applies equally to startups and giant corporations: Take action. There are so many obstacles that stand in the way of progress, so the essential element of success is simply continuing to push toward your goals.
“The most dangerous move in business is to never move at all,” he writes.
The most successful business people aren’t beholden to conventional thinking, find new ways to frame their limitations, and don’t let roadblocks stop them. Hayzlett’s savvy advice will help readers join their ranks.